EYES ON ISLES PRE-GAME REPORT
Tonight, the New York Islanders (21-26-8, 50 pts) play ‘host’ to the New York Rangers (28-23-3, 59 pts) in game no. 56 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
When: Wednesday, Jan. 29th, 7:30 p.m. EST
Watch: NBCSN, TSN, RDS2
Listen: 88.7FM WRHU, 103.9FM WRC, WCBS 880AM
Opposition Blog : Blueline Station
Tonight, there are some main things to focus on before puck drop at Yankee Stadium when the New York Islanders take on the New York Rangers in the finale of Stadium Series New York.
One – with an expected real feel temperature of 8 degrees at 7:30pm eastern standard time, did I dress warm enough? If you didn’t, you are guaranteed to be in for a long, painful and uncomfortable night.
Two – If I am home, did I finish everything I had to do and is my schedule clear for the next three hours?
You are not going to want to miss the spectacle that the National Hockey League and these two great rivals have in store for us this evening. For the Islanders, it is their first foray into the outdoor world of professional hockey and for their cross-town step brothers, their third. For Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Chris Kreider, even higher as they participated in these types of games in college.
If you think that does not matter, think again. Remember back to when you were a kid, if you played this great game of ice hockey, skating on a frozen pond found in your neighborhood with friends. At that young an age, the burning in your lungs from breathing in the sub-freezing air was basically ignored. Imagine the feeling these professionals will get in extremely stressful and exhausting 45 second shifts. It’s something that cannot be ignored and certainly will not be adjusted to by a couple of hour-long practices.
New York welcomed back Lubomir Visnovsky to the lineup on Monday evening, his first game since suffering a concussion on October 17. Expectedly rusty, the Islanders defenseman will hopefully have more of a footing under his game tonight as he faces off with the likes of Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards and Rick Nash. The news was not so good for Travis Hamonic, who did not feel well enough to continue working out on ice after suffering a concussion of his own. He was placed on the injured reserve list, retroactive to January 12, with the Islanders recalling Matt Donovan to play in tonight’s contest.
Handling the Islanders top line of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Thomas Vanek will prove challenging for a Rangers defense that has been up and down this season. Recent addition Kevin Klein has head coach Alain Vigneault hoping they settle down quickly. The New York trio are the league’s top three scorers since December 20 and Tavares is second in the entire league in scoring, trailing only Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Oh and that Okposo kid is pretty good too, sixth himself in scoring among all players.
Evgeni Nabokov will return to the crease tonight and head coach Jack Capuano is hoping his run of play before suffering a quad injury continues. Nabokov was playing his best hockey of the season prior to the spill (2.22 GAA and .925 save percentage) and leads this team emotionally on the ice and in the locker room. Nabokov is 9-8-5 with 2.85 GAA and .905 save percentage on the season.
As a team, the Islanders rank 13th in goals per game, 29th in goals against, 19th on the power play and 30th in penalty killing.
The Rangers come in 7-3-0 in their last ten and riding the high of defeating the New Jersey Devils 7-3 at this same venue on Sunday afternoon.
Rick Nash has led the charge offensively as he gears up to represent Canada in the Sochi Olympic games with goals in five straight games (7 total in that span). Support comes in the form of the team’s leading scorer Brad Richards, who has collected 13-25-38 in 54 games. Stepan has struggled offensively to provide secondary scoring along with Hagelin and Kreider. The trio, combined, has only produced 35 goals and 50 assists. Diminutive Norwegian Mats Zuccarello is having a career year trying to pick up the slack with 15-22-37.
Henrik Lundqvist will man the crease for the Rangers. After missing last week’s 5-3 Islanders victory over his team at Madison Square Garden, he settled down after allowing three soft goals to the Devils on Sunday to record the win. Regarded as one of the best in the entire league, Lundqvist has elevated his game at just the right time for his teammates after struggling early. For the season, he stands at 18-18-3 with 2.54 GAA and .914 save percentage. In January, however, he has posted a stellar 2.09 GAA and .931 save percentage.
When these two teams meet, it’s always interesting. It does not matter what the venue is. But the setting tonight at Yankee Stadium offers another page in the book that is one of the greatest rivalries in sports. A true offense vs defense showdown. The results are bound to be unpredictable. Enjoy it.
What They’re Saying…
- “You get into this building, you’re in the Bronx, you’re in Yankee Stadium, a great venue, and it’s pretty amazing what the NHL has done with these events. I think when we get out there [Wednesday] night it will be all business. But [Tuesday] was a day for our guys to enjoy a good, spirited practice, lot of time with their families. It’s not every day you get to do that” – Jack Capuano
- “It’s tremendous,” Tavares said of the clubhouse before joking with Colin McDonald that they’d have to call each other’s phones to talk during the intermissions because of the spacious layout.
- “I have a ton of respect for the Yankees and always have,”Okposo said. ”Just to walk around and see everything, it’s great. To know the history and tradition… and see all the old pictures of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle it’s pretty special.”
- “It’s obviously colder back home right now,” Okposo said. “It was cold out there, but definitely manageable.”
- NHL Scoring Race: John Tavares ranks second in NHL scoring with 64 points (23g/41a), 10 behind league-leader Sidney Crosby. Kyle Okposo is sixth in the league with 57 points (23g/34a).
- Career Highs: Kyle Okposo surpassed his previous career high of 52 pionts Saturday vs. St. Louis with a goal and an assist; he also recorded his career-high 34th assist Monday vs. Boston. Frans Nielsen surpasses his previous career high of 17 goals Monday vs. Boston.
- Okposo Streaking: Kyle Okposo has points in six straight games (4g/7a) and has goals in three straight; he’s been named a Star of the Game in each of the last three contests. Okposo has 11 goals and 12 assists in his last 15 games.
- January Record: The Islanders are 8-5-1 in January, with three games to play. It’s the first time since 2003 that the Isles have earned eight wins in January and matches their most January wins since they earned nine in 1990. The Isles have earned ten victories in January only once in franchise history, going 10-4-1 in 1980.
- Winning Ways: The Isles are 10-5-1 in their last 16 games. They’ve gone 9-2-0 in their last 11 road games.
- Need For 3: The Isles are 19-7-3 when they score at least three goals and are 2-19-5 when they do not.
26 Vanek – 91 Tavares – 21 Okposo
16 Regin – 51 Nielsen – 12 Bailey
40 Grabner – 29 Nelson – 15 Clutterbuck
13 McDonald – 53 Cizikas – 17 Martin
47 MacDonald – 37 Strait
46 Donovan – 44 de Haan
11 Visnovsky – 14 Hickey
Scratches: 4 Martinek (healthy), 7 Carkner (healthy), 36 Boulton (healthy)
Injured Reserve : 3 Hamonic (concussion)