Both the Rangers and Islanders are fully capable of reaching the Stanley Cup Final this spring, but both teams also may find it difficult to make it out of the first round of the 2016 postseason.
The Rangers have an awfully tough draw in the Penguins, who were the hottest team in hockey down the stretch of the regular season. The Rangers went 1-2-1 against their Metropolitan Division rival this season.
Of note, Pittsburgh netminder Marc Andre-Fleury has been out since the beginning of April with a concussion and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to go once the Blueshirts and Pens crank things up on Wednesday (8 p.m., USA).
“He’s making significant progress so we’re certainly encouraged by that,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told SB Nation. “He’s an important part of this team. He’s won a lot of games for us this year. He’s an elite goalie. He’s a very good goalie. The more guys that we can get healthy and get back into our lineup, we think it makes us a more competitive team.”
Sidney Crosby remains the Penguins’ top scorer as he popped in 36 goals this season (85 points). Phil Kessel has been a nice offensive addition for Pittsburgh as the former Maple Leafs star recorded 59 points this season.
The Islanders, meanwhile, will take on a Panthers team that has plenty of experience. The Atlantic Division champs featured guys like Jaromir Jagr, Roberto Luongo, Shawn Thornton and Jussi Jokinen.
Luongo, a 15-year veteran in net, owned a 35-19-6 record with a 2.35 GAA during the 2015-16 regular season. The Islanders didn’t have great success against him this season, scoring three goals on him in a 3-2 win in March but only finding the net once against him in a 5-1 loss in December.
The Panthers may rely a little too heavily on the 44-year-old Jagr as they are 31-10-6 this season when he tallies a point, according to ESPN.com.