With both teams undergoing drastic change around the bench and beyond this-past offseason, tonight will write a new chapter in the battle of New York.
- New York Rangers (9-7-2, 20 points)
- New York Islanders (9-6-2, 20 points)
- MSG+ 2, 88.7 FM WRHU
- Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Over the last three seasons, the Islanders have had sheer dominance over their cross-town rivals — there’s no other way to put it. Dating back to the beginning of the 2015-16 season, the Islanders are 11-1-0 with two season sweeps against their crosstown rival.
The lone loss occurred on opening night of the 2016-17 season, 4-3 at Madison Square Garden.
Alain Vigneault clearly had issues preparing his club for this rivalry-type of matches, but now in the era of Barry Trotz and David Quinn, it feels like a clean slate all around.
Tonight’s game marks the Islanders’ first rivalry game since the free agency departure of the guy who put the Toronto Maple Leafs firmly in the center of cap hell, John Tavares. In the wake of that, Mathew Barzal emerges as the Isles ace-in-the-hole for one reason in particular — he’s already proven to be a Ranger killer.
Mathew Barzal already has 10 points (3G-7A) in 4 career games against the Rangers, the most points he has against any team. #NYRvsNYI
— James Duffy (@TwoTurtleDuffs) November 15, 2018
Before any lineup speculation can be made (and Trotz is keeping his lines to himself until later tonight) the Isles had some rearranging to do in light of injuries.
Andrew Ladd is out indefinitely after suffering a bad right leg injury against the Vancouver Canucks, Matt Martin has been listed as day-to-day and Casey Cizikas is also out with a lower-body injury for two to three weeks.
In response, the Islanders have reached into the red-hot prospect pool who has been lighting it up in Bridgeport over the last several games. Prior to their overtime defeat against the Hartford Wolfpack, the Sound Tigers had won five-straight games with several of the Isles top prospects turning heads.
TRANSACTIONS: Michael Dal Colle (F) and Stephen Gionta (F) have been recalled by the @NYIslanders.
More: https://t.co/6bciDWAtCJ pic.twitter.com/XBTsy3SKeL
— Bridgeport Sound Tigers (@TheSoundTigers) November 15, 2018
Michael Dal Colle and Stephen Gionta (yes, not Josh Ho-Sang) were the two forwards called upon for tonight’s game.
Reading the last sentence may prompt some questions many of you have every right to ask, and that’s why in the world did Gionta get the call before any one of the Isles rookies (Ho-Sang).
What the thought process probably is from a managerial perspective is Gionta fills Cizikas’ role of fourth/third line center best as a veteran of almost 300 NHL games — the Isles essentially know exactly what they’re getting from him and are going with the reliable option.
Dal Colle, on the other hand, is a very intriguing story. Drafted fifth overall by the Islanders in the 2014 NHL draft, Dal Colle struggled to make his NHL debut which finally took place last season against these same Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
For years, Dal Colle was buried further down the Isles depth chart with each passing draft watching rookies drafted years after he flourished in stints with the big club (Sebastian Aho, for instance, was drafted in 2017 and played 22 games less than a year later).
Now, Dal Colle rejoins a new-look Isles team with a new (and proven) bench boss. It’s up to Dal Colle to make his case for a permanent spot once Ladd returns.
In 14 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this season, Dal Colle has seven goals and 14 points.
For obvious reasons, this is a huge game for the Islanders to collect more momentum from. A 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks was great mental reinforcement for a rested club that now has to face a surprisingly competitive Rangers team riding a seven-game point streak (6-0-1).
Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula, Tom Kuhnhackl, Luca Sbisa and Robin Lehner could all undergo their rite of passage in the eyes of Long Islanders tonight.
Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. tonight, with lineups and starting goaltenders to be announced later today.