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Islanders vs. Rangers Gameday: Episode IV

4-2 (EN), 4-2 (EN), 4-2 (EN). This series can't get much closer, with each of the first three 2011-12 episodes ending with an empty net goal that sealed the game for some New York victor.

That empty netter completed John Tavares' hat trick back in October, and it interrupted Islander attempts to climb back up in the East in November and December. The series resumes tonight at the Garden with the Rangers up 2-1 in the series and in second place in the East. The Isles are second from the bottom.

Nyi-islim_medium Nyr-slim_medium
Islanders (11-16-6, 14th/E) @ Rangers (21-8-4, 2nd/E)
[location rebranded as telco behemoth] Garden
7 p.m. | MSG, MSG+2 (twice the plus!) | NHL - WRHU
Winter Class: Blueshirt Banter

The Rangers have points in 20 of their last 25 games and are riding great production this year from Marian Gaborik, among other factors. But in the three previous New York derby meetings this season, nine different Rangers have goals -- Gaborik being the only one with as many as two. On the other side, only four Islanders have scored in those meetings (Matt Moulson and Tavares each with three, P.A. Parenteau and Frans Nielsen having the other tallies).

Goaltenders: Does it Matter? Henrik Lundqvist is 22-11-5 with a 2.22 GAA and three shutouts in 39 career games against the Islanders; Martin Biron is 21-4-1-0 with a 2.00 GAA in 27 career games against them. No matter which uniform he wears (including the Islanders uniform, in which he was 9-14-4 with .896 save pct.), Biron games have usually end poorly for the Isles. He made critical saves in the last meeting that allowed the Rangers to both win and save Henrik Lundqvist for the next night against the Flyers.

Speaking of goalies, Anders Nilsson is still with the club. (Technically he was reassigned to Bridgeport before the weekend and again recalled on emergency loan for tonight.)

That's important for the farm too as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers also resume play tonight. Michael Fornabaio tweets that Jeremy Colliton, Justin DiBenedetto and Trevor Gillies among others remain out with injuries.

Speaking of Injuries: As of noon, all of the injured were listed the same, so it sounds like the same lineup that went into the break will return for tonight's first post-Christmas game. But check the Twitter and the comments here for any updates.

These teams don't meet again until late February. No matter what the standings are then, it'd be fun to go into that fifth meeting with the lead in the season series up for grabs. That can only happen with an Isles regulation win tonight.

Weekend LHH-ing:

Mark continued the How I Became a Fan series here. Riffing off a Butch Goring comment, ATL Jim asks if the Islanders need more players in that 26-32 prime/experienced age group.

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Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this thread here.