Published January 13, 2015
A pair of New York rivals will both be after their longest winning streaks of the season when the Rangers visit the Islanders for Thursday's battle at Nassau Coliseum.
The Rangers enter this third of four scheduled meetings between the teams this season on a three-game winning streak, matching the club's longest winning streak of the year. The Islanders have won their last two games to record their fifth two-game win streak of the shortened campaign.
The clubs have split two encounters so far this season, but Thursday's matchup will be the first meeting on Long Island. The Rangers have won five of seven overall in the series, but the Isles have three victories in the last four tilts at the Coliseum.
After recent wins against Ottawa and Montreal, the Islanders are now 2-2-1 on a seven-game homestand that is set to end Saturday against Washington. All told, the Islanders are just 4-8-1 as the host in 2013.
The most recent victory came in Tuesday's 6-3 defeat of the Canadiens, who suffered their first regulation loss in 12 games. Radek Martinek scored a tie- breaking goal in the third period for the Isles, while Matt Moulson and Matt Martin each added power-play tallies. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 29-of-32 shots in the win.
"I think it was a character win for our guys but we need some guys to step it up. We have to make sure all 20 guys are going," said Islanders head coach Jack Capuano.
The Rangers posted a 4-2 win over a visiting Philadelphia club on Tuesday, but the Blueshirts also lost a key defenseman to injury in the triumph as Marc Staal left the game after getting hit near the eye with a puck.
Rick Nash registered the go-ahead and insurance tallies in the third period for the Rangers and all seven of his goals this season have come in the final stanza. Nash is riding a seven-game point streak and has five goals and six assists during the run.
Ryan Callahan added two early scores for the Rangers, who did not have the services of Brad Richards after he was injured Sunday night on an illegal hit by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta. Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves for the win.
"We found a way. It was a ground-it-out type of game the first couple periods. Nash steps up again in the third period, makes a couple big plays, and we found a way to win," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella.
However, the victory came at a cost as Staal, who was leading the Rangers' blue line with 11 points this season, was lost for an undetermined length of time after he was struck near the eye with a deflected shot. Although Staal won't play on Thursday, the severity of the injury is still unknown.
With Staal's status up in the air, the Rangers claimed veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik off waivers from the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
Hamrlik, the NHL's active leader in games played (1,383), had been a healthy scratch by the Caps for the majority of this season and was placed on waivers by the club on Tuesday.
The 38-year-old collected two goals and 11 assists over 68 outings with Washington in 2011-12 and is expected to be in the lineup for the Rangers on Thursday.
Richards is questionable for Thursday's game with body soreness.