RANGERS (22-19-4) AT ISLANDERS (28-13-4)
7 p.m. ET; MSG+, MSG2, NHL.TV
The New York Islanders didn’t have to wait long to take out their frustrations following Monday night’s lopsided loss to the New York Rangers. The Islanders will only have to wait a bit longer for a chance at getting payback against the Rangers.
The area’s biggest hockey rivalry will return to Long Island on Thursday night, when the Islanders host the Rangers in the second of three games in a span of nine days between the Metropolitan Division clubs.
The Rangers have been off since Monday, when they routed the Islanders 6-2 in a fight-filled game at Madison Square Garden. The Islanders bounced back Tuesday, when they smacked the visiting Detroit Red Wings in an 8-2 win at Nassau Coliseum.
The eight goals were the most, and the six-goal margin of victory the largest, for the Islanders since an 8-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 7, 2016. The Islanders waited little time pouncing on the NHL-worst Red Wings as the hosts scored three goals in the first eight minutes to chase goalie Jimmy Howard.
“You play a game like (Monday) — we’ve all been through it before, those aren’t fun, so we needed a response,” said Islanders right winger Jordan Eberle, who scored the first goal of the game-opening flurry vs. Detroit. “I said it (Monday) we had a lot of character in this room, and I knew we would.”
The resounding win Monday continued a recent surge for the Rangers, who have won three of four and are 6-5-0 since Dec. 22 as they try to mount a playoff push. The Rangers entered Wednesday six points behind the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets, who were tied for the final wild-card spot with 54 points.
“If we want to achieve our goal, we can’t let many nights slip through our fingers,” Rangers head coach David Quinn said. “That doesn’t mean you’re going to win every night, but you want to give yourself a chance to win, and lately we’ve been doing a better job of that.”
Thursday’s game will be followed by a third meeting — back at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 21. — between the Islanders and Rangers, who prior to Monday night hadn’t met each other since Jan. 12, 2019.
The rivals wasted little time renewing acquaintances Tuesday, as they engaged in a pair of fights — the first between the Islanders’ Ross Johnston and the Rangers’ Micheal Haley and the second between Matt Martin and Brendan Smith — just 2:13 after faceoff Monday.
The atmosphere on and off the ice is likely to be enhanced Thursday for the first game in the series at the cozy Nassau Coliseum — where the capacity is just 13,917, the smallest in the NHL — since March 10, 2015, when Rangers beat the Islanders, 2-1.
The Islanders moved to Barclays Center in Brooklyn following that season but played just three full seasons there before beginning to split their schedule between the Coliseum and Barclays while waiting for a new arena to be built in Queens.
–Field Level Media