- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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At a glance: The Islanders and Rangers enter Thursday's 7 p.m. match at Nassau Coliseum on winning streaks. The Rangers matched a season-high three-game skein with a 4-2 win over the Flyers on Tuesday, while the Islanders are coming off a 6-3 win over Montreal, their second straight victory. Only two points separate the eighth-place Rangers and 10th-place Islanders in the Eastern Conference standings. The Isles look to climb back into the playoff picture in their sixth game of a seven-game homestand. Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal for the Rangers; Evgeni Nabokov will get the start for the Isles.
Nice streak for Nash: Since returning from an undisclosed injury (believed to be a concussion), Rick Nash enters the tilt against the Islanders on a three-game goal-scoring streak. The 6-foot-4, 213-pound winger has six points (four goals and two assists) since he has returned, and the Rangers have reaped the benefits. The Blueshirts have not lost since his return to the lineup.
Tavares is tops: Islanders star center John Tavares currently ranks third in the league with 14 goals behind leader Steven Stamkos (17) and Jeff Carter (15). Tavares notched a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s win over the Habs, but the Rangers hope to hold him off the score sheet Thursday night. Why? The Islanders are 1-7-1 when Tavares is held without a point.
Staal out: Although doctors expect Marc Staal to make a full recovery after he was struck in the eye with a puck Tuesday night, he is out indefinitely. The prognosis was surprisingly optimistic, given the grisly nature of Staal’s injury. The 26-year-old defenseman will not be required to undergo surgery and is not expected to be in danger of any permanent loss of vision.
New guy in town: The Rangers claimed journeyman defenseman Roman Hamrlik off waivers from Washington on Wednesday. The 38-year-old veteran, a consistent scratch for the Capitals this season, skated Thursday morning and will make his Rangers debut against his former team. Hamrlik played four seasons with the Islanders from 2000 to 2004.
Toughen up: Opting for some snarl against the team’s division rivals, Isles coach Jack Capuano inserted Eric Boulton into the lineup in place of David Ullstrom. On the other side of the ice will be tough guy and former Islander Micheal Haley, who was recalled from the AHL on Tuesday.
Richards out: Brad Richards will miss his second straight game while recovering from the residual effects of a nasty hit sustained Sunday. Richards is still experiencing soreness after being rammed headfirst into the boards by Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta. Kaleta earned a five-game suspension on the play.
63dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald