New York Islanders vs. Rangers Preview: Chapter V

Until this year, the lighting was actually worse at Madison Square Garden. - Elsa

They call this the rubber match.

The New York Islanders take their fifth and final meeting with the city rival Rangers tonight, using the same lineup the Isles used in Wednesday's outdoor game.

As that game at Yankee Stadium was technically a "home" game for the Isles, the road team has won all four meetings thus far this season.

In both of the Isles' victories at Madison Square Garden, Thomas Vanek has the winning goal -- adding some spice to this rivalry and continuing Vanek's rep as a "Ranger killer" from his time with the Sabres. But on that note, will this be Vanek's final Battle of New York?

Islanders (21-27-8, 8th/Metro) @ Rangers (29-23-3, 2nd/Metro)
[world's most self-congratulatory] Garden
7 p.m. EST | MSG/MSG+, NHL Network (U.S.) | WRHU/WRCN
Yankee Stadium visitors: Blueshirt Banter

Coach Jack Capuano was asked about the third line of Michael Grabner and Cal Clutterbuck centered by Brock Nelson, who scored the lone goal in the outdoor game:

It’s been one of our best lines. [Nelson] is doing a great job on draws, they are playing simple hockey, they are doing the right things and when you do those things you have success.

Nelson, having a really promising rookie year, also showed his mastery of the hockey interview lexicon:

We are just playing hard, simple hockey. Grabs has tremendous speed, he flies up and down the wing and creates a lot of space for himself. Clutter does a good job of playing physical and makes smart, simple plays as well. We just try to feed off one another and capitalize.

That line created some hay Wednesday, one reason that 2-1 loss could have gone either way.

The Rangers Discuss the Isles' Top Line

After Wednesday's meeting, via the Daily News:

Due not only to John Tavares’ line’s ability but also to the ice conditions in the Bronx, Alain Vigneault and his defensemen had talked about playing it safer and not putting themselves in a position where a bad bounce could catch them out of position.

"You’ve got to be aware of the conditions, pucks bouncing, and guys (on the Islanders) play a high-paced game flying the zone a lot," Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said Thursday afternoon after practice in Greenburgh. "(Michael) Grabner’s speed and (Kyle) Okposo and (Thomas) Vanek, those guys are always looking to find space behind us. So I think for the most part our ‘D’ were really focusing on our own end, and just trying to distribute the puck to an area where our forwards could gain the offensive zone and create something that way."

And more from Vigneault:

"I look at their forwards and I see three lines that have got potential, and I see a fourth line that’s got some jam and crash and bang. What’s challenging is their first line, those guys can stay on the ice for a minute or minute-10 (seconds), which is way above the norm. So you have to have almost two pairs of ‘D’s ready and two lines ready to go up against that group at all times. And when the other lines come on, each line has a piece there that can generate offense or a physical presence.

In general, these teams match up nicely together, which is why they've played four one-goal games (plus two Isles empty netters). And that makes this both entertaining and a little bittersweet: If they were closer in the standings, the outcome of tonight would mean so much more.

TV Note

If you're out of area, tonight's game is on NHL Network in the U.S. Mind your blackouts.

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here.

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