The New York Islanders are trying to forget about last night, the New York Rangers are trying not to think about tomorrow. A potential Atlantic title bout looms for the Smurfs later this week, but first thing's first.
Meanwhile, a rebound opportunity awaits for the Islanders tonight, but they must first put last night-- ... oh, was there a game last night?
The Rangers are banged up -- Mats Zuccarello has been recalled as reinforcement -- amid a three-game losing streak. Captain Ryan Callahan (who played through injury in each of those losses) is out again. So is Michael Del Zotto, but Brandon Dubinsky is back after the "sinus issues" he appeared to contract while being punched.
At +39 they still have the sixth-highest goal differential in the league, and Henrik Lundqvist is no small part of that, but unlike some weaker year's he's not all of it.
When John Tortorella tries to poo-poo the inevitable NYC hype and Ranger fan parade plans, I think he knows that his team still plays a thin-margin game -- thin, anyway, for a conference leader. They suppress shots against (28.4) but they do not generate shots (27.8) the other way. Their possession is good but not overall dominant like some of the other NHL leaders, and their 29th-ranked powerplay is doing them no favors.
This is still a team that needs an "all-in" effort of shot blocks and Lundqvist to collect their points. There's a certain beauty in a lunch pail gang getting that done and seeing results, though the aesthetic is undermined by their decidedly not-lunch-pail payroll.
This season's series has been close, as it often is, but looking at the standings gives it the appearance of one of those European soccer derbies where one monied team is on top and the other is avoiding relegation. Some sort of Real vs. Atletico (depending on the year) or Bayern Munich vs. 1860 or worse. Let's go ahead and work on that for next year, mmkay?
The Islanders have six powerplay goals in the previous five meetings with the Rangers, and that's what's helped them forge a 2-3 record (from their lens ... that includes a shootout win) in the series. Matt Moulson, John Tavares and P.A. Parenteau each have seven points in that span, helping each other to combos of four goals and three assists (Moulson) or three and four (Tavares, Parenteau).
Evgeni Nabokov has played all five games, stopping 137 of 150 shots.
Update: In addition to Nabokov starting, Milan Jurcina returns in place of Mark Eaton (back), according to Arthur Staple. The rest of the lineup remains the same.
- Larry Brooks goes all "recall HALEY" for Tim Erixon.
- If you care to relive last night: Quotes from the Isles | LHH recap | Post | ESPN | In Lou We Trust | Newsday
- Our weekly Isles prospect roundup
- Newsday talks to Pat LaFontaine about the Making of a Royal series on NHL Network.
- European fans: Jonathan Northall is working on a book project about European-based fans of NHL teams. He's looking for experiences and tales and such. More info is here http://mntmp.posterous.com
or on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ mntmp.
LHH FIG Picks
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this thread. It's never too late to join in; instructions are linked in that thread.