Rangers, Islanders battle at MSG
The Rangers and Islanders will both try to extend current winning streaks to three games tonight, as the New York clubs meet for a battle at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers have 42 points on the season, placing them second in the Atlantic Division and 14 points ahead of the last-place Islanders. However, after road wins in Minnesota and Winnipeg, the Isles are hoping to complete a perfect three-game trip tonight at the Rangers' building.
The Islanders have won three straight on just one occasion this season, when they posted victories over Minnesota, Tampa Bay and the Rangers from Oct. 10-15.
The Blueshirts haven't won three in a row since a five-game winning streak from Nov. 25-Dec. 3.
Tonight's tilt marks the third meeting of the season between the New York clubs after the teams split two earlier encounters at the Isles' Nassau Coliseum. The Rangers have taken five of seven in this series overall. They have also won four straight on home ice in this matchup, outscoring the Isles by a combined 20-5 margin in those games.
The Islanders have notched a pair of shootout victories on the heels of a four-game losing streak. The latest win came Tuesday in Winnipeg, as P.A. Parenteau tallied the winner in the shootout to lift the Isles to a 3-2 decision.
Parenteau and Michael Grabner scored in regulation for the Islanders, who are just 5-6-3 as the visiting team this season.
Evgeni Nabokov picked up the win with 19 saves over the final 26-plus minutes in relief of starter Al Montoya, who left late in the second period after Jets forward Evander Kane knocked him over.
"It was a good hockey game. I thought both goaltenders played well, unfortunately Al Montoya got hurt but [Nabokov] came in in the third and did a great job," said Islanders head coach Jack Capuano.
Nabokov is expected to get the start tonight, while Montoya will be unavailable after being diagnosed with a concussion. Anders Nilsson was recalled from Bridgeport of the AHL to serve as Nabokov's backup.
In addition to Montoya, the Isles are also currently dealing with concussions to defenseman Steve Staios and forwards David Ullstrom and Brian Rolston. Defenseman Travis Hamonic, meanwhile, is questionable for tonight with a foot injury.
The Rangers, who have won four of six, posted their most recent win Tuesday in New Jersey. Marian Gaborik scored twice and added an assist to lift the Blueshirts to the 4-1 win at Prudential Center, giving the prolific winger four goals in his last two games and a team-leading 19 on the season.
Gaborik, who is also pacing the Rangers with 30 points, is just three goals shy of his total in 62 games last season.
Artem Anisimov had a goal and an assist and Carl Hagelin also lit the lamp for the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 30 shots in the win.
"These are important points to take, division rivals on the road," said Gaborik. "We have some big games coming up before the break and we just have to carry it over."
Tonight marks the start of a three-game homestand for the Rangers, who are 8-3-2 at MSG this season.
In injury news, Rangers defenseman Jeff Woywitka is questionable for tonight with a foot injury.