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Rangers ready for rematch against the Islanders; Nash and Hayes streaking

Bobby Bevilacqua

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The Rangers and the Islanders will face off for the fourth time this season, with the Rangers looking to snag their first win in the season series. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

After strolling through the first three game of their road trip with wins, the Rangers (32-16-5) head back to New York, where they prepared to take on the New York Islanders (37-18-1), who remain atop the Metropolitan Division, although just four points ahead of the Rangers. This makes tonight’s matchup another crucial game between the two New York powerhouses.

The Rangers are playing very well, winning the first three games of their four game road trip, and scoring 16 goals in the process. The Blueshirts have at least a point in seven of their last eight games (6-1-1), and are an impressive 22-6-1 in their last 29 games. However, they are just 9-5-1 since winning 13 out of 14 games, and keeping this streak going would be crucial to consistency towards the end of the season.

These two teams have met three times this season, and the Islanders have won all three, outscoring the Rangers 13-4 in the process. The most recent game was on Long Island, where the Isles dominated the Rangers in a 4-1 victory, and Jaroslav Halak was strong between the pipes. Carl Hagelin scored the lone Rangers goal with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game.

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Carl Hagelin scored the lone Rangers goal on January 27th at the Nassau Coliseum. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Both teams also come into the game hot, with the Rangers winning their last three and the Islanders winning their last four games. The Islanders won their last game against the Comumbus Blue Jackets 6-3, and close out their four game homestand tonight. The win improved their record at Nassau Coliseum to 20-6-0 on the year, and 11-0-0 against Metropolitan Division opponents on home ice.

Josh Bailey scored two goals in the Islanders last game, and will be one of the key players that the team will lean on in the absence of Kyle Okposo, who is out with a detached retina. Bailey is sixth on the team in scoring with 28 points (11-17-28) in just 44 games this season.

The Islanders are led by their 26 year old captain John Tavares, who is having a big season in Long Island. With two goals and two assists in the game against Columbus, Tavares leads the team in goals (26) and points (55).

Anders Lee accounts for the last piece of the top line, and he tallied four assists in the win over the Blue Jackets, giving the top line a grand total of 11 points (4-7-11) in the game. Lee has been red hot lately, picking up points in four consecutive games, with three goals and five assists in that span.

Jaroslav Halak will start in net for the Islanders, as he has done for the first three games of this series. Halak is 31-11-0 this season, with a 2.40 GAA and a .912 save percentage. Halak has been a big part of the team’s success this season, and will be aiming for another win in net for the Isles.

The Rangers will counter with Cam Talbot, who has done a good job at taking over the starting role with Henrik Lundqvist out due to injury. Talbot is 4-1-1 in six games as a starter, including three straight wins, the most recent being a 34 save effort against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. This will be his seventh consecutive start, and his first against the Islanders last season.

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Cam Talbot will make his first start of the season against the Islanders, and his seventh consecutive start since Henrik Lundqvist was diagnosed with the blood vessel injury. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Like he has been for the majority of the season, Rick Nash is surging yet again for the New York Rangers. Nash has a three game point streak, with two goals and four assists in that span. He has also managed to find the back of the net seven times in the past eight games, sitting one goal shy of Alex Ovechkin for the league lead. Nash has been a brute force on the ice lately, and the Rangers will need him to come up big in order to take down the Islanders.

Fellow linemate Derick Brassard is having a career year, tying his career high of 30 assists thanks to five helpers in the past three games. With the 13 goals he has scored this year, Brassard is second on the team in scoring with 43 points, as he has shown off an accurate shot and fantastic passing skills throughout the year. He has also been extremely consistent, totaling 26 points (7-19-26) in the last 30 games.

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Derick Brassard is having a career year, already tallying 43 points, just two points shy of last season’s total. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

One thing that has helped the Rangers tremendously is finally getting some depth scoring, and rookie Kevin Hayes showed why the Rangers signed him in the offseason with a spectacular performance during the first three games of the road trip.

Hayes scored a beautiful coast-to-coast goal against the Avalanche, and followed that up with his first career shorthanded goal in the win over the Coyotes. Hayes has hit the double digit mark in goals, and has an impressive 25 points (10-15-25) in his rookie campaign.

What’s more impressive is that he is learning to play center, not his natural position, at the NHL level. Outside of faceoffs, he has done a really good job, showcasing his ability to move and control the puck, and waiting to make the right pass to an open teammate. Alongside Carl Hagelin and JT Miller, the Rangers third line is starting to come together. Hayes has a five game point streak, with goals in three straight games, and seven total points (3-4-7) during the point streak.

Kevin Hayes hits Kyle Okposo

Kevin Hayes has greatly improved since the beginning of the season, and has been fantastic over the last five games, totaling 7 points during his point streak. He also is in the midst of a three game goal streak. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

While some may try and make the argument that Jaroslav Halak was the reason the Islanders won the first three games, that is not the case. The Islanders have just been the better team. They have outhit, outskated, and outscored the Rangers, beating them at their own game. Tonight provides the chance for the Rangers that they can match up against a tough Isles team, as well as gain some ground in the standings.

After missing the last game with an illness, Dan Boyle was on the ice this morning and will be a gametime decision. Boyle has goals in his last two games, and has improved his play on both sides of the puck lately. Either John Moore or Matt Hunwick will join him on the third pairing.

The Rangers and the Islanders will face off at 7 PM at the Nassau Coliseum. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

EXPECTED LINEUP (Not Confirmed)

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin-Kevin Hayes-JT Miller

Tanner Glass-Dominc Moore-Lee Stempniak

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Kevin Klein

John Moore-Dan Boyle

Cam Talbot

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Posted on February 16, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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