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Rangers prepared for one last battle at Nassau Coliseum against the Islanders

Bobby Bevilacqua

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The Rangers and Islanders will play for the final time in the regular season, and potentially the last time at Nassau Coliseum. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The stage is set for a crucial game tonight between the Rangers (40-17-7) and the Islanders (43-21-4), the last regular season matchup at Nassau Coliseum ever. The Rangers have four games in hand, and a win would bring them to within one point of the Islanders.

This is the fifth and final game between these two teams, with the Islanders winning three of the first four games. In the last game, the Rangers battled back for a thrilling 6-5 victory, with Kevin Klein scoring the game winner. Chris Kreider, Martin St. Louis and Kevin Klein both had a goal and an assist, Ryan McDonagh had two goals, and Derek Stepan had a goal and two assists.

Jaroslav Halak and Cam Talbot were the goalies, with both netminders facing over 40 shots. They will be the goalies again this time around, although I expect a much closer, tight checking game.

The Islanders have been busy, playing last night in Toronto, with tonight’s game against the Rangers their third in four nights. The Rangers need to capitalize on this advantage, and jump on the Isles early and often.

Jaroslav Halak will be well rested tonight, with newly acquired Michal Neuvirth starting the last two games. While Halak has certainly done a good job giving the Islanders a quality goalie, having a really good team in front of him has helped. Halak is 34-13-1 with a 2.48 GAA and a .911 save percentage.

For the first time since January 19th, Kyle Okposo will be back in the Islanders lineup, returning after suffering a detached retina. Okposo has played in just 46 games, but is still second on the team in scoring with 44 points (14-30-44). Alongside the NHL’s leading scorer, John Tavares (33-39-72), they combine for an extremely deadly duo. There may be some rust, but Okposo will still be a force on the ice.

Newly acquired Tyler Kennedy has played one game with the Islanders, last night against the Maple Leafs, and had a goal and an assist. Kennedy gives them another depth scorer and a center. The Isles already have a ton of quality depth players, one of the reasons that they are a good team.

Cam Talbot has been phenomenal in the last three games, allowing just three goals, including a shutout against the Blackhawks on Sunday night. Talbot has really gone above and beyond the call of duty since taking over as the Rangers starter, with a record of 14-6-4, a 2.33 GAA, a .921 save percentage, and five shutouts this season.

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Cam Talbot has been stellar in the last three games, and will look to continue his success in tonight’s crucial meeting. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Derick Brassard finally ended his goal drought of 15 games with his overtime winner on Sunday, blasting a slap shot and beating Corey Crawford short-side. He has 14 goals this season, and 37 assist to go along with it. Unlike most people, Brassard was still producing at a high level in his goal drought, with two goals and 14 assists in the last. Alongside Rick Nash and the red-hot Mats Zuccarello, Brassard has a good chance to keep up his scoring.

Zuccarello has a three game assist streak on the line, with five assists in the last five games. Coming into the game, he has tallied 16 points (5-11-16) in the last six contests, and has played very well since signing his contract extension. He is fifth on the team in scoring with 39 points (12-27-39).

In the last three games, Dan Boyle has looked like a totally different player on the ice. With six high quality defensemen now on the team, there is a lot less pressure on Boyle to be an offensive juggernaut or a shutdown defender. Now he fits somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, a role he is likely going to flourish in, and has in the past three games.

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Dan Boyle has been an improved player in the last three games, and could have another strong game tonight, especially on the power play. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The Islanders penalty kill is 29th in the league, with just a 75.9% rate. With that in mind, and Boyle’s newfound comfort, he is my player to watch tonight. Also, watch for Keith Yandle on the power play, who has been held without a point in his first three games as a Ranger.

The only lineup change for the Rangers will be on the fourth line, replacing James Sheppard with the gritty Tanner Glass. He brings a two game assist streak into tonight’s game.

The Rangers and the Islanders will face off at 7 PM at the Nassau Coliseum. The game will be broadcasted on MSG 2.

EXPECTED LINES

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin-Kevin Hayes-JT Miller

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein

Cam Talbot

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Posted on March 10, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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