Any doubts the Ranger Islander rivalry is back, will be blown off the ice today. Truly one of the most heated rivalries in all of sports has returned from the abyss, it’s absence prolonged by Islander management ineptitude. Today’s match will feature two teams eyeing home ice advantage, in a potential subway series playoff showdown. The present day Islanders are a tougher nut to crack than the 1994 version, that was hammered in a four game sweep, by the Stanley Cup bound Rangers who out scored the Islanders 22-3. It was the last time these two teams met in a playoff series. And this is the first time they have met in a meaningful game since.
The Rangers are winning games, seemingly only on nights accentuated by outstanding goaltending most notably by Henrik Lundqvist and most recently by backup Antti Raanta. He will get another chance to continue his recent strong play replacing the injured Henrik Lundqvist.
In other lineup changes Marc Staal has back spasms and will be replaced by the eager Dylan McIlrath looking to add to his NHL resume with another strong game. Newly acquired Eric Staal will continue his integration into the Ranger’s repertoire of weapons, getting his first taste of this once bitter NHL rivalry. These are the kind of games the “new” guy can accelerate his team bonding by playing a hard game. Expect that from the former Hurricane captain.
As much as this is a statement game for both teams, it is also critical in its standings impact. Expect a barn burner with heated playoff caliber of play. Hockey is a game of emotions and no emotion usually means boring. This afternoon’s game will not be boring. Welcome back rivalry.