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Islanders Gameday: These stakes are upside down

There is an NHL tweetup for this Islanders-Rangers matchup at the Times Square ESPN Zone, where fans of all teams are welcome to a reserved area and a $10 gift card for that venue's "sports arena." I can't think of a better game to get Isles and Smurfs fans together and hope they get along.

Because when will fans on either side be more accepting of a loss to the other than now, when both teams are closer to a juicy lottery position than they are to a playoff spot?

Isles-w_medium                 Nyr-ge_medium
Long Island Islanders (29-33-10, 14th) at Short Island Smurfs (31-32-9, 10th)
7 p.m. EDT | [
Unsponsored but not Untainted] Garden | MSG, MSG+, radio
Bad Childhoods, Surely:
Blueshirt Banter | Scotty Hockey | Battle of NY

Not that anyone's hoping for a loss in this historic rivalry -- no no, I assure you. But each side has its share of fans focused more on how the draft might fix what management or resources has not. Boston trounced Atlanta last night, creating separation between those two but also putting the Bruins seven points ahead of the Rangers.

If the Islanders win tonight in regulation, it would create a two-point separation between 23rd and 28th place. I don't have to go into the lottery odds of each slot to convey how that's a big deal. Hugh Jessimans do not grow on trees.

I already covered how I feel on the matter -- but no matter the context, I'll always accept the blood of Rangers defeat on my hands. I figure karma would reward the Isles later for delivering justice. But really now, one of these days this rivalry will again find the caliber it deserves, and both teams will be on the upswing at the same time. That's when the real fun will resume. Alas, whether Glen Sather finally quits (hey Mess!) or sticks around 'cause it's a really cushy job, that time seems a ways off.

Tonight, each team will take the ice paying lip service to their remnant playoff chances, which might produce an enticing game. But neither team has played well enough at any point this season to put together the kind of miracle run now required to squeak in -- even if it's only other mediocre Eastern Conference teams standing in their way. I once saw tonight and next week's final derby as two chances for the Islanders to kill their rival's playoff hopes, but the Rangers didn't really hold up their end of the bargain.

Lineup Shenanigans

  • Despite earlier, heh, "fears," Sean Avery should be in and Ryan Callahan looks possible too.
  • With Martin Biron spending yesterday with his pregnant wife, he was still expected to be at the Garden to backup Dwayne Roloson. Whether Trevor Gillies or Jeff Tambellini gets the final forward spot, expect neither to get much ice time.
  • This will be the first Battle of New York game for Dylan Reese and Dustin Kohn. Gillies too, should he skate, so you can imagine him getting amped up for it.

I'm actually impressed Gillies hasn't fought yet in his six games. He's only logged three shifts in each of his last three games (all wins), but I appreciate an enforcer who doesn't fight just to justify his presence.

TV Network Shenanigans

MSG, that behemoth acronym that has treated us so well these many years, is doing this as their first-ever 3D hockey game. Except you can't see it unless you are in a very weird and tiny subset of viewers. Or if you pay some crazy sum to watch it in the theater with some old Rangers who remember the team before Sather. (Derek at Battle of New York had a brutally honest take; no need to say anymore.)

Triple Prediction: Avery does something stupid. An Islanders win tonight or next week takes the season series. Fans on both sides talk about baseball.