Last year’s season sweep of their crosstown rivals ended abruptly in October when the New York Islanders lost their first meeting of the season with the Rangers on Broadway.
Some measure of revenge was achieved in December when the Islanders won at home, 4-2, with since-demoted Jaroslav Halak in goal.
Tonight is part three of the 2016-17’s four-chapter battle, with the Isles needing this one at home much more than their visiting Smurf rivals.
Thanks to a blowout loss in Toronto this week, the Islanders are again three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final wild card position. However, with a game in hand, a regulation win tonight would bring the Isles to within one point of the Leafs, right where they were when entering Toronto.
Such are the daily swings and stakes now that the Islanders under interim head coach Doug Weight have put them back into this playoff conversation. But to stay there, they’ll have to keep beating teams like the Rangers, who are safely 12 points ahead of the second wild card spot and within two points of second and third (Pittsburgh and Columbus) in the Metropolitan Division.
Thomas Greiss, who’s taken over the starter role since Halak’s demotion to the AHL — a role Greiss earned with his performance after Halak’s season-ending injury last year — is again in goal for the Isles.
They have one lineup change, with defenseman Scott Mayfield coming in for Adam Pelech, who had a defensive zone miscue with Alan Quine to help set off the massacre in Toronto.
Travis Hamonic, Cal Clutterbuck and Shane Prince remain out with injuries.
The Rangers will of course start Henrik Lundqvist, who has been much better in recent starts after hitting a “oh no is he getting old?” skid. They are expected to scratch Pavel Buchnevich, Brandon Pirri and Adam Clendening.
How to Watch
For Rangers coverage from our SB Nation siblings, check Blueshirt Banter.
TV coverage with the Islanders broadcast crew is on MSG+2. Radio coverage is AM970 - The Answer, 88.7FM - WRHU, and 103.9FM - LI News, with AM970 having a pregame spotlight with Butch Goring and Pat LaFontaine at 6 p.m.
Game time is 7 p.m. EST. Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here by then.