Rangers renew rivalry with Islanders

The first-place Rangers will rekindle their rivalry against the Islanders tonight when the New York teams get together for an Atlantic Division battle at Nassau Coliseum.

The Rangers and Isles are currently at opposite ends of the Atlantic with the former club leading the division, and the Eastern Conference, with 81 points. The Islanders are 23 points behind the Blueshirts, but are just seven points out of the final playoff spot in the East.

The Islanders posted a 4-2 home win over the Rangers when this year's season series began back on Oct. 15, but the Blueshirts have taken three straight encounters since. The Rangers have won seven of nine overall in this series and the clubs have split the last eight matchups on Long Island.

The Rangers will try to rebound tonight after getting shut out by Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in Tuesday's 2-0 loss in Pittsburgh. Fleury made 27 saves to blank the East's top team, while Evgeni Malkin and Steve Sullivan scored for the Pens.

Henrik Lundqvist allowed two goals on nine shots in the second period, but had 11 saves in both of the other periods in a hard-luck loss. New York, which leads the conference by seven points over Boston, fell for just the third time in 10 games this month (7-3).

"We just couldn't score a big goal," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. "I thought we had some chances to get back in it, but we couldn't finish on Fleury."

The Rangers, who are also seven in front of New Jersey for the division lead, had won three straight on the road prior to Tuesday's setback, but they are is still an impressive 19-8-3 as the guest this season.

The Islanders enter tonight having lost two straight and three of their last four games. They were slammed by visiting Ottawa in a 6-0 rout on Monday afternoon and then dropped a 2-1 decision the next night in Buffalo. Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller made 30 saves in Tuesday's win over the Isles.

Frans Nielsen had a third-period goal and Kevin Poulin stopped 35 shots for the Islanders, who were without head coach Jack Capuano and No. 1 goalie Evgeni Nabokov because of the flu.

"We had a close game today and I think we had some good opportunities at the end," said Poulin. "I think we have to build on it."

Doug Weight assumed head coaching duties on Tuesday, but Capuano is expected to be back behind the bench tonight. Nabokov could also start in his first game since Feb. 14 tonight, while defenseman Travis Hamonic is questionable after missing the last nine games with a broken nose.

The Islanders are 13-14-5 as the home team this year and after tonight's test, they will embark on a four-game road trip.