The New York Islanders come to the Garden tonight for the first time this season to face the Blueshirts. Tonight's game will mark the second of six games between the cross-town rivals. Last Monday the Rangers won the first match 4-2 in convincing fashion.
If you've read my recent articles, you know that I have been somewhat (ok, extremely) critical of the line juggling by Tom Renney. The lines I reported yesterday will indeed be the ones that will start tonights game. They are as follows:
Dru and Dawes worked well together in the preseason, and I like have Gomez, more of a playmaking center, on a line with Naslund, who has shown his ability to finish. Maybe Voros gets his game going after cooling off from his hot start. Maybe not. I do think these lines have the potential to do well, especially against an Islanders team at the bottom of the league standings.
After blowing a 4-1 lead against Montreal Saturday night, the Islanders again blew a three goal lead in the third period last night after dominating the Blue Jackets the first two periods. Although the Islanders did win it in overtime on Chris Campoli's second goal of the game, they have shown me that they get rattled the moment things start going south.
But for some reason, the Isles always seem to get up for the Rangers. As we saw last week, they come out flying and throwing the body. Expect an epic goaltending match between Henrik Lundqvist and Joey McDonald. No? How about Henrik Lundqvist and perennial all-star Yann Danis? Okay, maybe not. But with Rick DiPietro out for another few weeks, the Islanders are using two unknowns between the pipes.
Andy Sutton, the big, physical defenseman in his second year with the Islanders, will be in the lineup tonight for the fourth straight game after missing the opening weeks with a hand injury. He's no Brendan Witt on the blueline, but expect him to be out there trying to shut down the Gomez line.
One thing is for sure; the Islanders take a lot of penalties. With 18.4 minutes per game, they rank 23rd in the league. If the Rangers dormant power play starts connecting it could be a tough night for the Islanders in the Big Apple. But watch out because the Islanders have already scored four times this season while shorthanded, trailing only San Jose and Philadelphia, each with five.
If the Rangers play like they should for a full sixty minutes, I expect them to win this game. Tonight's game will go a long way in proving that Saturday night's mess in Toronto was a mental lapse. Last season, after losing 6-5 in Montreal after having a five goal lead, the Rangers won four in a row and seven of eight.
More after the game...