The New York Rangers and New York Islanders meet at Madison Square Garden tonight with vital points up for grabs.
This battle will likely determine the first-round opponents for each of the two teams in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They’ll be playing for pride: They’ve never suffered a regular season sweep at he hands of their most hated rival.
It’s not all roses and cherries though, as the Blueshirts will enter the game minus All-Star team Captain Ryan McDonagh (D, fractured hand).
They are also likely to be without Dan Girardi (D, undisclosed injury) as well. Girardi fell awkwardly into the boards late in Wednesday’s game after getting blind-sided by former Ranger, Brian Boyle.
Forward Tanner Glass will be available after having avoided contact from the NHL Department of Random Knocks (DORK). Freshmen defensemen Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei will again be called upon to fill holes in the defense.
The Isles (44- 26-9) clinched their second straight playoff berth by overcoming two separate two–goal deficits in a 4-3 victory over the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
They enter the contest on a two-game winning streak, but will enter the tonight’s game dinged up.
The Bad News
The Isles have won six of their last seven games at MSG, posting a robust 4.3GF in those games (Yahoo Sports).
That doesn’t bode well for a home team that has struggled for most of the season to find the mettle to fend off division rivals. In fact, the Rangers have been middling at-best against their Metropolitan opponents, posting a depressingly mediocre 6-7-4 record.
With rare exception, this team has proven aptly capable of turning in the performance equivalent of a half-used urinal puck when they needed to stand tall.
If you’re expecting that to change, you will probably not go to bed very happy tonight.
The Good News
The Islanders are (somehow inexplicably) a 97-point team that is going to the playoffs.
It’s a team that can occasionally come up with a total gem, and validate the at-times obnoxiously ignorant hubris of many the Rangers’ fans who insist that this team can realistically be considered a viable Stanley C*p contender.
Mercifully, there is no mathematical way these two teams can face one another in the first round, so this could be their last match-up of the 2015-16 season.
Lastly, there is a win in a possible loss: falling to the Wild Card would mean navigating a considerably weaker Atlantic Division playoff pool.
Approach this one gingerly and quietly, Ranger fans. Your team probably will.