Feels like forever since we had one of these. If the Islanders hadn't secured a milestone win in Toronto, this game would have been a chance for the hated Rangers to help the Islanders break their franchise record of 12 consecutive losses. Thankfully, the dry run stopped at 10.
Long Island Islanders (11-21-4, 30th) at Short Island Smurfs (22-13-3, 1st/Atl)
7 p.m. EST | Madison Square Garden | Versus (Vs.?) (Roar, conflict)
So then: This pre-New Year episode of the Battle of New York finds the Rangers on higher ground: 9 games over loser point-aided ".500" versus the Islanders' 10 games below quasi-.500. At 47 points, the Rangers have played a minimum 2 more games but collected a maximum 5 more points than the three other Atlantic teams who fill the standings chasm in between the Isles and Rangers. Tom Renney is feeling heat, and he's dishing it out on his "brain-dead" players.
Translation: the Rangers early-season lead has all but vanished, and they need both points from games like these to fend off the Pennsylvania charge and mounting critics.
The Islanders, meanwhile, are feeling light just by virtue of having taken three points from their last two games. With five minutes left in Buffalo and down 3-1, it didn't look that way -- heck, with two seconds left in Buffalo, it didn't look that way. But that's why they pull the goalie.
Doug Weight should return from his groin strain, still two points shy of 1,000. Speaking of groins, Rick DiPietro's is apparently healthy enough after two days' rest to make the show in front of Broadway's bright lights. The mantra from me, as always: They better not be pushing DiPietro, because nothing should be wasted on this season which would be better preserved and used in the next five (or in DiPietro's case, 12).
Note: this one is on Versus, because Ed Snider or someone says so.
Irrelevant self-promotion section
Speeding sniper Mike Gartner's number was retired by the Capitals the other night. Until someone left a comment after the ceremony, I forgot that I wrote a quick reflection about Gartner's career, trades (two Hall of Famers) and mustache over the summer. A fun bit to revisit ... Christy at SBN's Red Wings (one of those teams at the other end of the table) blog, Winging it in Motown, does a regular "Behind the Blog" Q&A feature. This week, the blog-behind is about yours truly. May not be new info to frequent readers (it's me talking Islanders hockey again), but there's a bit to explain how the Islanders hooked this St. Louisan and his father into their storied-yet-tortured realm.