NY Islanders vs. NY Rangers is a Stadium Series matchup of unfamiliar foes

New York Rangers v New York Islanders
New York Rangers v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Lost in the pomp and circumstance surrounding Sunday's Stadium Series showdown between the New York Islanders and New York Rangers is that this is the first time the two teams have met since December 22, 2022. That's an unthinkable amount of time for two long-time rivals to play each, including all of the 2023 calendar year. Let's put it this way: Sunday's outdoor game at MetLife Stadium was announced nearly four months after the last time these two teams played.

The Islanders and Rangers are vastly different teams since their last battle for bragging rights.

The head coaches were Lane Lambert and Gerard Gallant. Bo Horvat was the captain of the Vancouver Canucks, Peter Laviolette was coaching Alexander Ovechkin in DC, and Patrick Roy was chasing down a Memorial Cup for the Quebec Remparts.

You couldn't even enjoy a pre-game public skate outside UBS Arena!

After losing four straight games to the New Jersey Devils and getting knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round, the Blueshirts fired Gallant despite regular season success and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals the previous season. Meanwhile, the Islanders brought back Lambert with the hope that a full season of Horvat, Pierre Engvall, and a healthier defense would bring more sustained success during the regular season.

The Rangers bet right by firing Gallant and bringing in the well-traveled but tested Laviolette, who has had different levels of success wherever he's been, including a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. The Rangers enter Sunday's game winners of six straight and atop the Metropolitan Division. After a regression in January that put the division within range of the second-place Hurricanes, the Rangers have opened up a six-point lead in the standings with 73 points.

Meanwhile, the Islanders are three points out of the playoffs and in the muck of the Eastern Conference with the Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Roy has given them a shot in the arm but has led to only a 3-3-2 record as they continue to squander opportunities to collect points and struggle to find consistency.

The teams will get a feel for each on Sunday and then will play three more times before the end of the season. It took way too long for these games to return, but the outcomes could determine the division for the Rangers and the post-season for the Islanders. Let the rivalry rivival commence.