One of hockey’s greatest rivalries resumes Thursday night (7 p.m. ET) in Brooklyn as the New York Rangers visit the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center.
The first meeting of the 2018-19 season between the two clubs comes under some surprising circumstances as both teams have remained competitive in the Metropolitan Division over the first six weeks of the season.
As of Wednesday night, both teams were tied for second in the division with 20 points.
The Rangers, who tampered expectations this year when management revealed their plans of a rebuild, are one of the hottest teams in hockey. They have won six of their last seven games to quickly erase a slow 3-7-1 start.
The spark for that rebuild, the youth, has played a big role in their recent success as six of their leading nine point getters are 25 years old or younger.
A 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday saw 19-year-old Filip Chytil open the scoring before 20-year-old Brett Howden delivered the winner with nine minutes to go in the third.
“We don’t look at it as a rebuild year,” Howden said. “We believe we’ve got a great team here and we’re looking to build this year and be a contending team. We’re not looking for three years down the road.”
The Islanders are coming off a Tuesday night win over those same Canucks, a 5-2 victory that saw the offense break out to end a three-game losing streak. That downturn in play resulted in the Islanders losing their top spot in the division after five straight wins from Oct. 27-Nov. 3.
Tuesday night’s win was the first time since Oct. 30 that the Islanders had scored more than four goals in a game.
While Mathew Barzal has struggled to find the back of the net, Josh Bailey has proven that he is an elite playmaker with six goals and 12 assists for a team-leading 18 points in 17 games.
Much of their success, though, is due to a much-improved defense that’s been backed by stellar goaltending.
Only three teams in the NHL have allowed fewer than the Islanders’ 41 goals against as goalie Thomas Greiss is having a remarkable start to his season.
After a career-worst 2017-18 campaign, Greiss has a 1.98 goals against average and a save percentage of .938. Only former Islanders netminder Jaroslav Halak, now with the Boston Bruins, has played in as many games as Greiss and accrued better numbers this year.
In the opposite crease, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has proven that age isn’t slowing him down. At age 36 and in his 14th year in the NHL, he owns a .923 save percentage and 2.54 goals against average.
A win tonight would see him move past Jacques Plante for seventh on the NHL’s all-time wins list with 438.
However, the Islanders have owned this rivalry as of late, winning the last seven contests dating back to 2016.
They will be hobbled though heading into Thursday night’s tilt as Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Andrew Ladd were placed on IR. Stephen Gionta and Michael Dal Colle were recalled from Bridgeport, though the latter will likely not be suiting up.
Here is how you can catch all the action:
Rangers vs. Islanders viewing information
Date: Thursday, Nov. 15
Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV: MSG (Rangers broadcast), MSG+2 (Islanders broadcast)