When it comes to NHL rivalries, there aren’t much better than the one between the New York Islanders and New York Rangers.
On Thursday night, the two teams meet in the first battle of New York this season in a matchup that has provided countless memories since the Islanders’ inception in 1972.
While the vitriol might still be at Madison Square Garden tonight, the playoff-caliber play might not.
Entering Thursday night, the Islanders and Rangers reside in the bottom two spots in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders have five points while the Rangers have three. Only the Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes have less than the Rangers in the entire league.
The Blueshirts have lost four straight, their last victory coming on Oct. 8 against the Montreal Canadiens. During an opening month that features 10 home games, the Rangers have taken just one of their first four at home.
If the month progresses and they can’t start picking up points at Madison Square Garden, they are going to have a difficult time establishing any kind of playoff run during the winter months.
The Islanders are back on the East coast for the first time in over a week after a three-game West coast road trip that saw them drop two of three games. A 3-1 victory of the San Jose Sharks was sandwiched in between losses to the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.
The team’s largest concern is the power play, a special teams unit that has yet to record a man-advantage goal in 20 opportunities over six games.
In an attempt to spark it, the Islanders will start defenseman Ryan Pulock, who brings a heavy shot and offensive instinct to the blue line during the man advantage.
Henrik Lundqvist will face Jaroslav Halak, who has a 7-3-0 career record with a 2.39 GAA and .931 save percentage against the Rangers, in goal with puck drop coming at 7 p.m. ET.