Game Preview: NY Rangers @ NY Islanders

The Isles have yet to defeat their tri-state rivals in the 2023-24 season.
New York Islanders v New York Rangers
New York Islanders v New York Rangers / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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95. MSG 2, MSGN. April 8, 2024. Isles vs. Rangers. 106. 53-21-4. 35-27-15. . 7:00 PM EST

The NY Islanders (35-27-15, 85 points) will look to create some comfortability in the playoff picture as they take on the first-place New York Rangers (53-21-4, 110 points) at UBS Arena.

LAST GAME

The Islanders' last game was against the Nashville Predators on Saturday at UBS Arena. Barry Trotz was in the building and received a roaring standing ovation. The first period finished scoreless with the Isles outshooting their opponent 12-to-9. The game remained tied until midway through the second period when Noah Dobson scored from the blue line on a pass from Mathew Barzal. Despite Dobson's tripping penalty against Filip Forsberg and being outshot 12-to-8, the Isles exited the frame with a 1-0 lead.

The third period saw all the momentum shift in the Predators' favor. Brock Nelson took a high-sticking penalty against Luke Evangelista. Immediately after a successful penalty kill, Simon Holmstrom was called for slashing fan favorite Anthony Beauvillier. Luckily for the Islanders, Semyon Varlamov was magnificent as he saved all 20 shots on goal through the period. Kyle Palmieri put the ribbon on top with an empty netter to seal the Isles' fourth straight win 2-0. This game marked the first Islanders shutout victory since November 2nd against the Washington Capitals and their first time defeating the Predators since 2017.

The Rangers' last game was against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The first period was scoreless until the final 30 seconds when Cole Caufield netted his 24th goal of the season. However, this would be the final time the Canadiens had a lead in this game. Mika Zibanejad tied it in the second period, while Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin scored in the first six minutes of the third. Aside from a goal scored by Alex Newhook, the Rangers controlled the rest of this game to win 5-2. Igor Shesterkin was fantastic, saving 26 of 28 shots on goal.

HISTORICAL MATCHUP

The Islanders have been embarrassed in both matchups against the Rangers this season. Their first meeting came on February 18th at MetLife Stadium. Erik Gustaffson scored just 1:28 into the game to give the Blue Shirts an early lead. However, the Isles fought back with 3 goals in the span of 3:14 from Nelson, Bo Horvat, and Barzal. The Isles opened the second period with a powerplay goal from Anders Lee at 1:03. However, the Rangers kept the game within reach as Vincent Trochek scored twice. Aside from a goal from Alexander Romanov, the third period could not have been more of a disaster for the Isles. The Rangers tied the game after taking advantage of two Scott Mayfield penalties. Panarin put the final nail into the Islanders' coffin in overtime to win 6-5.

Their second meeting came on March 17th at Madison Square Garden. Aside from two goals scored by Horvat with assists from Nelson on both, the Isles did not show up either offensively or defensively in this game. After taking a 1-0 lead into the second period, the Rangers shot three goals past Ilya Sorkin to take a 3-2 lead. Shesterkin did not have to do much more as the Rangers outshot the Isles 8-to-6 the rest of the way. The Blue Shirts scored two more times in the third period on goals from Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere to seal their victory 5-2. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Dobson has revived his offensive skillset from the first half of this season, scoring goals in each of the last two games. Palmieri has scored an empty net goal in back-to-back games. Varlamov has found his form that was integral in leading the Isles to two straight Eastern Conference Finals. He has won four of his last five starts by only allowing 11 goals and posting a .912 or better save percentage in all of them. The team has also won four games in a row with Nelson only scoring once against the Flyers on April 1st. For the Islanders to defeat their tri-state rivals, the second line must find its offensive production that has made them so successful.

Panarin is having a season for the ages, recording 46 goals and 69 assists. Trochek and Chris Kreider have taken advantage of their captain's great success by posting 75 and 70 points respectively. Long Island native Fox is the Rangers' version of Dobson, scoring 15 goals and recording 46 assists. Shesterkin has bounced back well from his mediocre 2022-23 season by having a .910 save percentage through 52 games played. If nothing else, the 28-year-old performance should give Islanders fans confidence Sorokin will find his form next season as well.

PROJECTED LINES

ISLANDERS

Casey Cizikas - Bo Horvat - Mathew Barzal
Simon Holmstrom - Brock Nelson - Kyle Palmieri
Anders Lee - J.G. Pageau - Pierre Engvall
Matt Martin - Kyle MacLean - Cal Clutterbuck

Alexander Romanov - Noah Dobson
Adam Pelech - Ryan Pulock
Mike Reilly - Sebastian Aho

Semyon Varlamov
Ilya Sorokin

RANGERS

Chris Kreider - Mike Zibanejad - Jack Roslovic
Artemi Panarin - Vincent Trochek - Alexis Lafreniere
Will Cuylle - Alex Wennberg - Kaapo Kakko
Barclay Goodrow - Jonny Brodzinski - Jimmy Vesey

Ryan Lindgren - Adam Fox
K'Andre Miller - Jacob Trouba
Erik Gustafsson - Braden Schneider

Igor Shesterkin
Jonathon Quick