The New York Rangers take their seven-game point streak down the block to Brooklyn where the crosstown Islanders will look to end the Blueshirts surprising run.
When the NHL schedule is announced every season, this is the game that is circled first on everyone’s calendar in New York.
New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders is one of the best rivalries in hockey, maybe in all of the sports. Since the early 1970s, these two teams and their fans have enjoyed the battle of hockey supremacy in New York.
From their classic playoff series in 1979, the consecutive run of four straight Islanders Stanley Cup championships, to the Denis Potvin hit on Ulf Nielsen, this rivalry has seen just about everything and never fails to entertain all hockey fans.
These teams battle for more than points in the standing, they fight for bragging rights in New York City. Two teams that have their home arenas a mere six miles away from one another with lifelong die-hard fans in the middle will play their first of four games Thursday night at the Barclays Center.
The New York Rangers are on a seven-game points streak, 6-0-1, as their new head coach David Quinn has begun to teach this young club the value of playing a complete team game. The Blueshirts have found a way to score goals and keep the opposition’s goals against low as they have competed in most of their games this season.
Lead by Mika Zibanejad, 15 points, Chris Kreider, eight goals, rookie defenseman Neal Pionk, who is averaging 23:04 minutes of ice time per game, and a rejuvenated Henrik Lundqvist, 2.54 goals against average, the New York Rangers come into Brooklyn tied for second place in the Metro Division with the Islanders.
The Islanders are lead by Josh Bailey who has recorded 18 points in 17 games this season. Forward Brock Nelson is the team’s goal leader hitting the back of the net eight times already. Defenseman Ryan Pulock is the ice time leader of the club averaging 23:18 per game. In between the pipes is Thomas Greiss who has a very strong 1.98 goals against average.
After starting the season strong, the Isles are 1-3-0 in their last four games. They too are led by a new man behind the bench in Barry Trotz, who lead the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup last season. He has faced the Rangers many times before, but this is his first go around coaching the rivalry, as is the same for Quinn.
The most notable missing name missing from the Islanders for this year’s battle is center John Tavares. J.T., an unrestricted free agent this past summer, left the Islanders and signed with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. This will be the first time in eight seasons that Tavares is not part of a Rangers-Islanders contest
On the Rangers side of the city, they are missing a few familiar names as well. Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, and Rick Nash all are no longer with the team, being moved at the trade deadline last season.
Injuries Have been surrounding both teams as of late. For the Rangers Mats Zuccarello has missed the last three games with a groin strain. Pavel Buchnevich broke his thumb in the win over Columbus on Saturday night and will be out 4-6 weeks.
The Islanders Andrew Ladd sustained a leg injury in Tuesday nights 5-2 win of Vancouver. His availability against the Rangers is doubtful.
Rangers projected lineup
At practice on Wednesday morning, Mats Zuccarello participated with a full contact jersey. Goalie Alexandar Georgiev was recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack after playing in a game for them on Wednesday where he won the game 4-3.
The forward lines on the ice at practice were:
Islanders projected lineup
The Islanders practiced on Wednesday morning without both Ladd and Casey Cizikas in the ice. The lines were:
Following Thursday nights contest, the teams will face each other three more times:
Nov. 21 @ NYR
Jan. 10 @ NYR
Jan. 12 @ NYI
Thursday will be a road game for the Blueshirts, but there will be plenty of support for both teams. Bragging rights are on the line.
Let the “Potvin sucks” chants begin.