(SportsNetwork.com) – The New York Islanders continue to lead the Metropolitan
Division, but the New York Rangers have become a serious challenger to that
spot over the past month.
The Rangers return home looking for a sixth consecutive victory on Tuesday
night as they host the Islanders at Madison Square Garden.
The Islanders have gone 4-2-0 on a seven-game road trip that concludes tonight
and lead the division with 57 points, one more than the Pittsburgh Penguins.
However, the Rangers have charged up the Eastern Conference ladder by winning
13 of their past 14 games and sit in a wild card spot while closing to within
five points of the Isles.
The Blueshirts went perfect on a three-game swing through California, capping
the trip with Saturday’s 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Chris Kreider had a
goal and an assist, while Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash also scored and Derek
Stepan had a pair of assists.
Henrik Lundqvist posted 30 saves to help extend the Rangers’ best 14-game run
since a 14-0-1 stretch from Jan. 7-Feb. 10, 1973.
“It was exciting and intense,” Lundqvist said. “We found a way to win this one
and we battled really hard. We wanted to finish off strong here on this road
Lundqvist is 11-1-0 with a 1.57 goals against average and a .939 save
percentage over his past 12 appearances, and Saturday’s win made him the first
goaltender in NHL history to record at least 20 victories in each of his first
Nash, meanwhile, has a goal in three of his past four games and is tied for
the NHL lead with 26.
The Islanders, meanwhile, picked up wins on back-to-back nights as they
continued their road trip. They defeated New Jersey on Friday before rolling
to a 5-2 decision over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.
Matt Martin, Anders Lee and Brian Strait all had second-period goals, with
Strait also assisting on Kyle Okposo’s third-period marker. Nikolay Kulemin
scored as well and both Ryan Strome and Thomas Hickey had a pair of assists.
“We have some chemistry here,” Strait said. “The coach has been doing a great
job this year getting us to go in the right direction.”
New York outshot the Blue Jackets by a 40-18 margin, with Chad Johnson needing
to record just 16 saves to collect the victory.
Mikhail Grabovski did not play on Saturday due to a lower-body injury and is
questionable for this game.
The Islanders did record a 6-3 victory over the Ranges on Oct. 14 at Madison
Square Garden, where they have won four of their past five. Okposo had a goal
and Jaroslav Halak posted 40 saves in the first of five meetings between the
Nash scored twice, but Lundqvist yielded six goals on 27 shots. The netminder
fell to 29-13-5 in his career versus the Isles with a 2.15 GAA, .922 save
percentage and five shutouts.
Halak should start tonight and is 8-4-0 versus the Blueshirts with a 2.75 GAA
and .913 save percentage.
The Rangers do have a point in 12 straight games against fellow Metropolitan
Division residents (11-0-1), including a win in eight in a row.