And so arrives our winter of discontent, or rather three games in 10 days between the New York Islanders and Rangers. Tonight's and the Jan. 31 meetings bookend the "Stadium Series" outdoor game at Yankee Stadium, but more important than all that hoopla is that there are Metropolitan Division standings points at stake.
The Rangers look like they're finally going where they always thought they'd be this season. The Isles are trying to salvage any hope of the same before it's too late. When these teams last met, the Rangers were still climbing up from 6th in the Metro, but Michael Grabner briefly shook his scoring slump to key a 5-3 (EN) win at the Garden.
At the other end, Kevin Poulin is back in net after Anders Nilsson took a turn in yesterday's shootout win over the Flyers. The more mobile Peter Regin and Radek Martinek are also slated to replace Eric Boulton and Matt Carkner, respectively.
Ken Hitchcock, who has had to switch teams a time or four, is fond of saying it takes 30-40 games for a new coach and his team to fully get in sync. If you buy that theory, then the Rangers may be becoming more like what they should be rather than what they were through the first 30 or so games of his tenure.
At Blueshirt Banter they've outlined it after his first 36 games (18-18-2) and the next 15 (11-3-1). Certainly the offense and special teams have rebounded, and Rick Nash has recently been more like Rick Nash, NHL Star than Rick Nash, Typical Rangers Star-Struck Splurge.
"He was always a little bit stronger than everybody. It's just the way he worked hard. Pretty similar to what you're seeing now," McDonagh said. "It seems like he is one of the guys you kind of lean on. If your team is doing well, he's a big reason why. It's not a coincidence to see him doing well and helping the Islanders."
Sweepstakes: We Have a Winner
Remember the Stadium Series ticket giveaway thing from last week? You didn't win. Unless you are edavidmorris. Then you won. Congratulations! (And sincerely, thanks everyone for playing. That was a fun thread, and brought out some entertaining lurkers.)
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight's contest over here on the shoveled walk.
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