Both the Rangers and Islanders are locked into Stanley Cup playoff berths and while the two clubs will not meet in the first round, Thursday’s all-New York matchup at the Garden (7 p.m., MSG) could offer a sign of raucous times to come this spring.
While the Rangers currently hold an advantage in the standings – the Blueshirts are third in the Metropolitan division with a 45-26-9 record (99 points) and the Islanders are the Wild Card leader with a record of 44-26-9 (97 points) – the Islanders can improve their record this season to 2-0-1 with a victory over their neighbors Thursday night. If that goes down, it would be the first time ever the Rangers will have failed to defeat the Isles in the regular season.
More important than any cross-town rivalry right now though is home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and both teams have a shot. The Rangers know they’ll play either the Panthers or Penguins in the first round but it remains to be seen if they’ll get that extra game at MSG. The Islanders would like to creep into the third spot in the Metro and would definitely need to knock off the Rangers Thursday to have a shot at doing so. The Isles wrap up their regular season with home games against the Sabres on Saturday and the Flyers on Sunday. Philly should be awfully hungry to get that game as it is in a battle with Boston and Detroit for the final wild card spot in the East.
The Rangers will have one game left after the Isles game – at MSG on Saturday against the Red Wings.
The Rangers were dealt a harsh blow at an inopportune juncture this week as captain Ryan McDonagh was injured while blocking a shot on Monday. McDonagh apparently suffered a “small break f the metacarpal bones” in his right hand and is “all but certain to be sidelined for at least the early games of the first round” of the playoffs, according to the NY Post.
Dan Girardi was also roughed up during the Rangers’ 3-2 win over the Lightning on Tuesday, but Girardi is not expected to miss any time.
“It’s not good,” Henrik Lundqvist told the Daily News. “It’s definitely not this time of year. I really hope [Girardi’s injury] is not too serious. He’s a guy who plays hard and doesn’t go down unless it’s really painful.”