The Islanders (4-4-1) currently sit in third place in the Atlantic division with nine points, and sit five points behind the division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins.
After losing its last two games to the New Jersey Devils and Penguins by a combined score of 7-2, this team could certainly use a win to regain some momentum.
For the Rangers (4-5-0), the start to this season hasn't been an ideal one. Head coach John Tortorella's squad sits in fourth place in the Atlantic with eight points (one behind the Islanders) and they trail the Penguins by six points for the division lead.
This team is littered with talent and a great goaltender to boot, so the early season struggles for the Rangers shouldn't last long. The biggest cause of their issues has been scoring goals, which is evidenced by their No. 26 ranking in the NHL in that department.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know for this exciting matchup.
When: Thursday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Watch: MSG (Check local listings)
Live Stream: NHL GameCenter
Best Storyline: The Rivalry
If you live in New York, you already know just how heated this rivalry is no matter how bad the Islanders are perennially.
The bragging rights are always on the line in this matchup and fans will no doubt use a season series win to claim who the best team in New York is despite what the records of either team says.
There is always much more pressure on the Rangers to win in their games with the Islanders, considering the Rangers are often the better team on paper and have an edge as far as popularity goes.
The Islanders are often seen as the little brother in this rivalry and were 2-3-1 against the Rangers last season, so there's no doubt the Isles' fans want to see a better performance this season.
Key Players to Watch
Marian Gaborik, RW
In the Rangers struggles to score goals early in the season, Marian Gaborik has been a major catalyst for the team and there's no telling where the Rangers would be without him.
On top of his team-leading five goals, Gaborik has also notched three assists and has taken 32 shots on net.
In his last four games, Gaborik has been quiet without putting up a single goal or assist since his two-goal, two-assist performance in the Rangers 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 26.
Gaborik is far too talented to keep this kind of production-less play up, so expect the 30-year-old to break out against the Islanders on Thursday.
Henrik Lundqvist, G
With the Rangers not scoring much lately, and the Islanders ranking No. 6 in the NHL in goals per game, Henrik Lundqvist needs to bring his "A" game if he hopes to lead his team to victory.
Lundqvist is 3-5-0 to start the season, and while a lack of goal support can partially be blamed for the rocky beginning to 2012-13, he hasn't exactly been playing stellar between the pipes.
His current GAA stands at 2.83, which would be the worst mark of his NHL career. In Lundqvist's last two games, he's allowed a combined total of six goals on 51 shots, while getting only one goal of support from his offense.
Clearly not only does Lundqvist need to get better—and he undoubtedly will—but his teammates must start playing better on both sides of the puck to give King Henrik a better chance to succeed.
John Tavares, C
The Islanders defense and goaltending have not been very good this season as they currently rank No. 26 in goals against per game, but their offense has helped pick up the slack.
John Tavares has scored four goals this season while showing off his passing skills with seven assists. He also has a team-high 11 points and is the kind of spark that can really get things going for the Islanders.
The most important thing for Tavares is to stay aggressive and try to penetrate the Rangers' zone early and often.
If he can draw the extra attention from the Rangers defense, that will help open things up for his teammates to score goals much like Tavares has done so far this season—and that's in addition to Tavares' ability to put the puck in the net on his own accord.
Mark Streit, D
Evgeni Nabokov has not been what the Islanders envisioned thus far in 2012-13, so a defenseman like Mark Streit is that much more important for this team's chances of not allowing their opponents to have an offensive explosion.
Streit will be tasked with making things difficult for the Rangers on the offensive end, not to mention he must keep an eye on some of the Rangers' key offensive player to make sure they don't create easy shots on net against Nabokov.
On the offensive end, Streit is proving to be a great two-way player for the Islanders as he's netted three goals and two assists in nine games this season. He might be better known for his offense, but Streit's contributions on the defensive end are vital to his team's success in this game.
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