The final season at Nassau Coliseum is ripe for a history reference on every home game. Nights like tonight call for one on road games too.
The New York Islanders and New York Rangers resume their four-decades-old derby at Madison Square Garden tonight, but the historical relevance is that both teams look to be real division contenders in the same season for the first time in ages. Whether that culminates in a much-hoped-for playoff encounter is, of course, to be determined by about 80 games between now and then.
But at least more than one of their meetings, unlike last season, will be at the Coliseum. Bonus: No Gnarls Barkley.
The Rangers are coming off a trip to the Cup finals as the East's lamb sent to be sacrificed at the West's Stanley Cup altar. That trip that only encouraged many an Eastern team, including the Islanders, to think, "That could be us."
In the offseason, the Smurfs lost some guys and added some weaker ones. The Islanders lost few and added more than they can waivably contain. The outcome has both teams on paper moving closer to each other, and hopefully on a season-long collision course that should only intensify once the Islanders encroach that much closer to the World's Most Self-Promoting Arena next season.
The Islanders' lines will be the same as they were in the weekend sweep of Carolina. Jaroslav Halak is back in goal.
The Rangers lines (Andrew Gross, Record) include some curiosities, notealy ruffian Tanner Glass and reclamation project Ryan Malone on line four. Martin St. Louis has been playing center in Derek Stepan's absence.
Mats Zuccarello returns to the lineup after a one-game absence (he amusingly fought TJ Oshie in the opener, then was minus-4 in Columbus before sitting out for a reported bum shoulder).
Duclair - St. Louis - Nash
Kreider - Brassard - Stempniak
Hagelin - Hayes - Zuccarello
Malone - Moore - Glass
McDonagh - Girardi
Staal - Kostka
Moore - Klein
If you haven't heard of Anthony Duclair, you'll likely become familiar soon. He was a surprise training camp survivor who impressed immediately and, thus far, has looked like a kid who will stick at age 19.
Kevin Hayes is the Boston College product who "loopholed" out of Chicago's grasp by waiting until mid-August to sign, thus making himself free to sign with any team.
On defense, the Rangers have scrambled with the departure of Anton Stralman and an opening-game injury to some Dan Boyle guy.
Overall, the Rangers are coming off a cluster of a home opener, losing badly to the previously winless Toronto Maple Leafs and getting Henrik Lundqvist pulled.
No doubt, both teams will look a little more alive than that tonight.
Like to pick the First Islanders Goal? You can do that in our informal seasonlong contest here.