(SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off their first playoff appearance in six years, the New York Islanders are finally beginning to bear the fruit from their rebuilding effort.
The recent acquisition of Thomas Vanek shows the club no longer sees itself as a work in progress.
Vanek is slated to make his Islanders debut on Tuesday night in a home meeting with the struggling New York Rangers.
Owning just two playoff appearances over the past eight seasons, the Islanders have spent their time building a core through the draft that includes John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Andrew MacDonald. They were able to earn the eighth seed in last season's playoffs before falling in the first round to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Isles then began this campaign with raised expectations, making a 4-4-3 start a bit of a disappointment. That led to general manager Garth Snow parting ways with scoring forward Matt Moulson and a pair of draft picks, including a 2014 first-round selection, to get Vanek from Buffalo.
The 29-year-old Vanek has amassed 254 goals and 497 points in 598 games with the Sabres since they selected him fifth overall in the 2003 draft. He owns a pair of 40-goal campaigns, but the Sabres decided to move him as part of their current rebuilding effort, something the forward said he did not want to be a part of.
Now the Austria-born sniper will try to put the Islanders over the top.
"I knew it was going to happen sooner or later with the situation in Buffalo, but obviously when it does happen you're initially shocked," Vanek said of the trade. "But I'm excited to come here to a great young team with an up-tempo style and looking forward to it."
Vanek will join Tavares and Okposo on the top line, with the duo looking to remain hot with their new linemate. Tavares has four goals and nine assists over a 10-game point streak, two shy of his career best.
Tavares has also logged a helper in six straight games, while Okposo has totaled three goals and five assists over a five-game point streak.
Okposo and Frans Nielsen both scored in Saturday's 5-2 loss to Philadelphia, the Islander's sixth in eight games. Nielsen scored in his fourth consecutive game and his seven goals are one more than he scored all of last season.
Kevin Poulin allowed four scores on 31 shots in his second start of the season as the Islanders failed to carry in the momentum secured following a 4-3 win over the Penguins the previous night in which they netted three third- period goals.
"It is tough when you dig yourself a hole. It is tough to come back, especially when you did it the night before. We were not good enough throughout the game," said Tavares.
The Rangers have had very few games in which they have been good enough to win.
Following a season-opening 3-6-0 road trip, the Rangers enjoyed their home opener at the renovated Madison Square Garden on Monday night but saw themselves shut out for the third time this season with a 2-0 setback to the Montreal Canadiens.
After missing a pair of games due to an undisclosed injury, Henrik Lundqvist got the start and made 25 saves in defeat.
"It's fun to play here again," Lundqvist said. "It was a disappointing loss but it was great to be back."
New York had its home opener minus Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin due to injury.
Hagelin, though, could make his season debut tonight. He had 10 goals in 48 games last season and underwent shoulder surgery in late May.
With his recent injury, it is unknown if Lundqvist will start on back-to-back nights. He is 27-11-5 with five shutouts and a 2.07 goals against average in his career versus the Islanders, while backup Cam Talbot has made just two career starts and none versus the Isles.
Evgeni Nabokov is likely to start for the Islanders, having gone 7-7-3 with a 2.48 GAA in 17 career meetings with the Blueshirts.
This is the first of five meetings this year between the New York clubs. The Rangers have won seven of the last nine encounters overall and three of their last four on Long Island.
This will be the only game played between the clubs this season at Nassau Coliseum. The other attributed home game to the Isles in this series will be played at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 29.