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Raanta remains in net as the Rangers take on the Islanders; Marc Staal OUT

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs islanders faceoff 12-2

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

After bouncing back with a huge win over the Capitals, the Rangers (38-21-6) close out a tough three-game stretch against division rivals when they take on the New York Islanders (35-20-7), returning to MSG for one game before another short road trip.

Although the Rangers hold a five game lead over the Islanders, the Isles have three games in hand, making this a true battle for second place in the Metro. Both teams are coming into this game playing well, and both teams will be playing hard to get the two points.

This is the third out of four games between the Rangers and Islanders, and the first game at MSG this season. The last five encounters have all been played at the Islanders’ home; three at the Nassau Coliseum and two this year at the Barclays Center. The Rangers are 0-1-1 this year against the Isles, losing 2-1 in a shootout in December and 3-1 on January 14th.

The Islanders are coming into this game playing very well, closing out a seven game road trip tonight at the Garden. So far, they’ve won five of the first six games on the road trip, including two straight. Four of their five wins have been one-goal games, so they’ve been finding ways to come out on top in tough circumstances.

Jaroslav Halak is expected to start for the Islanders tonight despite largely working in a platoon role this season, and despite Thomas Greiss posting better numbers. This year, Halak is 16-13-4 with a .919 save percentage and a 2.28 GAA, but he always seems to step his game up against the Rangers.

At the trade deadline, the Islanders decided to hold onto upcoming UFA Kyle Okposo, despite the fact that there’s a good chance he leaves after this season. But Okposo has probably been the best player for the Isles this season, holding a joint-lead on the team in scoring with John Tavares, tallying 50 points (16-34-50) so far. Okposo scored the overtime winner on Thursday, and he’s three points (1-2-3) in the two games against the Rangers this season.

Another player who has stood out for the Islanders this year has been Brock Nelson, the 24 year old winger playing in his third NHL season. So far he’s already set a new career high in goals (21) and trails just John Tavares in that offensive category. Nelson has a great shot, and catches teams off guard since he’s not really given respect as a goal scorer just yet. He’s been held pointless in seven straight, but is always a threat to score.

Following another fantastic performance on Friday against the Capitals, Antti Raanta will be in net yet again for the Rangers, making it four straight games with an appearance for him. Henrik Lundqvist was in gear this morning but still isn’t good to go, so the team recalled Magnus Hellberg on an emergency basis. Raanta has won three straight starts, allowing just five goals on 98 shots against (.949 SV%). This will be Raanta’s first career game against the Islanders. On home ice, Raanta is 18-2-4 with a 1.70 GAA, a .937 save percentage and 4 shutouts.

Just 17 seconds into the third period against the Capitals, Derek Stepan scored what would wind up being the game winning goal, his 15th goal of the season. Stepan has been playing his best hockey of the season, recording 11 points (6-5-11) in the last 12 games, heating up at exactly the right time. Stepan is so important to the team in all areas of the game, and they’ll be leaning on him again tonight.

Chris Kreider struggled for a large stretch of games earlier in the season, struggling to find consistency and also having a hard time finding the back of the net. But he has definitely turned things around, scoring three goals in the last five games, and six points (3-3-6) in the last 11 games. Kreider has recorded a point in seven of the 13 career games he has played against the Islanders, and he has three points in the last four games against them as well.

As for the lineups, Henrik Lundqvist remains out with neck spasms. Marc Staal will also be a scratch tonight with back spasms due to dehydration from the flu. For the lines, nothing changes, which means Kevin Hayes will remain on the fourth line (try to figure that one out).

The Rangers and the Islanders will faceoff at Madison Square Garden at 5 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

EXPECTED LINEUP

JT Miller-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Jesper Fast

Oscar Lindberg-Eric Staal-Viktor Stalberg

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Kevin Hayes

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein

Dan Boyle-Dylan McIlrath

Antti Raanta

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Posted on March 6, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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