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Islanders vs. Rangers Gameday: Battle of New York Resumes

It's an important five-game run from here to New Year's for the Islanders, but the game within the game also gives us an odd kink in the schedule where they play two of the next three at the World's Most Expensive Arena.

Neither the Short Island Smurfs nor the Islanders approach this holiday weekend with a healthy lineup, so to quote my grandpa describing working for 19 cents a day during the Depression: "You did what you could with what you had. Nobody worried about anybody."

Nyi-islestickslim_medium Nyr-slim_medium
Islanders (11-14-6, 14th/E) @ Smurfs (19-8-4, 3rd/E)
7 p.m. | MSG/MSG+ | Audio: NHL -
Where Hall of Famers School You, Then Suck] Garden
Children Overlooked by Family Services:
Blueshirt Banter

UPDATE: The Islanders have re-activated Mark Eaton and returned Dylan Reese to Bridgeport.

On the Islanders side of course we have the concussed foursome of Brian Rolston, Steve Staios, Al Montoya and David Ullstrom. That brings up Micheal Haley, Anders Nilsson (who probably gets an appearance in one of these back-to-backs) and possibly more than nine minutes for Nino Niederreiter in his ninth game of the season.

The Rangers are getting the 24/7 treatment -- our mini-thread from last night is here, Blueshirt Banter described the episode here, Puck Daddy has highlights here. One credit to the Smurfs: They had the decency to dispense of the Devils in regulation. Another credit: It was fun to watch them get manhandled by the Blues.

The Rangers have a really nice record right now, and it's thanks to the usual suspect: Henrik Lundqvist. I think deep inside John Tortorella knows this: He knows his team, especially without Marc Staal, has ridden Lundqvist as it is wont to do. What's great for the Rangers is, if they could do this long enough to get to when Staal nears a return, then they've got the head start they need. But of course I'm going to point out their puck possession figures through the first third of the season raise alarms.

But for now, they're also without Michael Sauer and even last-resort depth fill-in Jeff "I was once dealt for Chris Pronger" Woywitka is banged up. Tim Erixon is one of the more interesting replacements.

The Rangers have actually only benefited from one shootout win (they're 1-2), so it's not like they're riding Lundqvist that far. Rather, they haven't needed the post-65-minute breakaway drill. Their team save percentage is .931 (third overall, behind only the Thomas Bruins and the Wild), and their shooting percentage is 10.6, second overall in the league (behind the Flyers). I'm not saying, I'm just saying...

What am I saying? These rivalry games are always of the "throw the records out" variety. But these are winnable games, if the Islanders solve Lundqvist. Sometimes they do that, sometimes they fall flat. Though sometimes the road team takes the day in this rivalry, the Islanders (2-4 in last year's series) actually lost all three games at the Garden in 2010-11.

Sean Avery hasn't played since Dec. 10, but I'm sure if the Rangers get a wild hair then Haley will keep an eye on him. That seemed to work out okay last year.

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