New York Islanders (28-13-1) at New York Rangers (24-11-4)
|Date & Time||Tuesday January 13, 2015, 7:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: New York Rangers -153 / New York Islanders +138 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+. Start your 7-day FREE trial today!|
The New York Rangers host the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. In one of the biggest meetings in recent years between the two clubs the Rangers will look to continue their recent stretch of 13 wins in their last 14 games, though they still find themselves five points behind the rival Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division standings. The Rangers will be returning to face the dreaded first game back after a West Coast road trip, but facing a challenge as big as this one should make sure they’re up for the task. It looked like this road trip could be what finally slowed the Rangers down but instead they fashioned a three game sweep of Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose. After two impressive wins on back-to-back nights to start the trip the Rangers had a tougher go of it in San Jose on Saturday night but still found a way to come away with two points. Henrik Lundqvist was superb, allowing his club to find their legs during a shaky first period, and he was also the best penalty killer on the ice all night long. The Rangers were being outplayed in the opening frame but twice they capitalized on offensive zone face offs to take a 2-0 lead. First it was Chris Kreider with a beautiful one handed pass to Martin St. Louis that got the Rangers on the board, and less than five minutes later Kreider banged home the rebound on a shot from Dan Girardi to double the lead. Lundqvist did the rest from there before finally yielding a power play goal 7:14 into the final period. The Rangers would ice their 3-1 win on Rick Nash’s empty net goal with a minute to play in the contest. Nash was named to the All-Star Game and the Rangers will need him to be a difference maker if they’re going to keep their streak going against the Islanders on Tuesday night.
For the Islanders it’s all about keeping this excellent start to the season going. The club has hit some bumps in the road along the way but unlike in prior seasons they’re had the ability to get the ship righted quickly and not lose any ground in a highly competitive division. Consecutive losses in Edmonton and Vancouver left the club looking lethargic and a step behind, but they bounced back nicely with wins on back-to-back nights over the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets on the road. Now the Islanders will try to ensure that this six game road trip is a winning one by adding two points against the Rangers. After a sluggish performance against he Devils that John Tavares had to bail them out of, the Islanders were much better on Saturday in Columbus. Nikolay Kulemin’s seventh goal of the season came just 31 seconds into the game and gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead but they found the score tied after 20 minutes despite out shooting Columbus 16-4 in the frame. In the second period the Islanders finally broke things open when Matt Martin, Anders Lee, and Brian Strait scored consecutive goals to put the game out of reach. Kyle Okposo added his ninth goal of the year in the 5-2 victory. This is a huge game for the Islanders to prove that they’re for real in this division and it’s especially important because despite their five point lead the Islanders have played three more games than the Rangers.
Both these teams are in tough spots heading into this game on Tuesday night. The Rangers return home after a trip to California in which they appeared to be a step slow in San Jose during their final game. The Islanders are at the end of a lengthy six game road trip, though they were able to come home before playing New Jersey on Friday night. This should be a hockey game that’s filled with pace and skating and scoring opportunities. It’s really a coin flip especially because the Islanders always play the Rangers hard even when they’re bad. With this game virtually being a toss up it’s hard to not take a chance on the Islanders at this number.