Update: From the N.Y. Islanders on Facebook:
The Isles will have a new goal song today. The players, led by Zenon Konopka, requested the change.
If you saw yesterday's posts, you know why we think Islanders-Rangers is the best rivalry in New York sports. It's also so uniquely New York, because fans on opposite sides in hockey can share allegiances to the same team in the NFL and MLB. (So keep that in mind here and don't go trolling or baiting other sites in our name. I happen to have a good relationship with the guys who run Blueshirt Banter and intend to keep it that way.) You just don't get that kind of cross-sport "My winter enemy is my summer ally" scenario in most "derbies."
You also probably saw among yesterday's news that Katie Strang reported Josh Bailey centering the top line in John Tavares' absence, while Michael Grabner likely enters on the Doug Weight/Nino Niederreiter line.
"Are You Employed, Sir?"
You don't go out looking for a job dressed like that? On a weekday?
Since it's an afternoon with little time between this post and the game and presumably many regulars will be working for the man, this post will probably do double-duty as our preview and game thread. Unless I change my mind at game time.
Rangers rookie Derek Stepan became the first rookie in forever to score a hat trick in his first NHL game. I look at this in two ways: On one hand, it's bad, because we don't need that kind of success for the Blueshirts. On the other hand, it's just fine, because now there will be a certain segment of delusional Rangers fans whom Stepan will never be ever to please. It's like he'll never live up to that debut and resultant hype, which should be fun.
Last Year's Series
In 2009-10 the teams "split" the series 3-3, although thanks to the NHL's lovely bookkeeping in which OT and shootout games are worth 50% more than regularly decided games, the Isles record was actually 3-3-0 while the Rangers was 3-2-1, giving the Rangers the extra standings point. As is often the case in this "no home game is a home game" series, each team actually did better in the other team's rink.
Dwayne Roloson -- who at least at one point this weekend was expected to start -- played all six games, producing a .906 save percentage. The top Isles scorer was Blake Comeau, who had 4-1-5 in 5 GP. Brendan Witt, demoted at mid-season, actually was there for four NYI-NYR tilts last year, while Trevor Gillies -- who only appeared in two -- managed to pile up 21 PIM.
Needs to build off last game: Josh Bailey, the leading minute guy among forwards vs. the Stars, has a chance to build off a strong performance and restake a claim for playing center sooner rather than later
- Needs to soak this experience: Nino Niederreiter, whose big body should prove Okposo-like in this series for years to come. But today we'll settle for another solid game for an 18-year-old.
- Needs to be himself: Whoever is in goal.
- Needs to adapt quickly: Michael Grabner, entering the lineup sooner than expected due to injuries.
- Needs to make a statement: P.A. Parenteau. This is your old team; you know how to make it hurt.
- Needs to show up: Islanders fans. Rally the troops, defend the fort.
- Under the microscope: The defensive unit again, which looked like it was still getting to know each other in the Stars game.
Faceoff at 1 p.m. Work? Work?! Who needs work?