Thursday, February 7, 2013
W2W4: Rangers vs. Isles
By Katie Strang
At a glance: A bitter rivalry resumes Thursday at Madison Square Garden as the Rangers and Islanders square off in the first of four meetings this season. After a strong start to 2013, the Islanders have dropped two straight while the Rangers are coming off a tough loss against the New Jersey Devils. Only one point separates the two clubs in the standings (Islanders, 4-4-1, 9 points; Rangers 4-5-0, 8 points) and, as always, New York bragging rights are on the line.
Power outage: An 0-for-5 performance in Tuesday’s loss to the Devils leaves the Rangers a dreadful 3-for-35 this season on the power play. The team currently ranks dead last in the league with a paltry 8.6 percent success rate. They’ll face one of the best penalty-killing units as well. The Islanders have surrendered only three power-play goals in nine games, fourth in the league at 90.3 percent.
Big minutes: Star center John Tavares currently ranks second among all NHL forwards with an average of 22:00 minutes per game. Logging those big minutes, Tavares, 22, leads the Isles in scoring with four goals and seven assists through nine games. The former first overall pick has been centering a line with Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes.
Captain Comeback?: It remains a possibility that Rangers captain Ryan Callahan could return from shoulder injury Thursday night. The 27-year-old winger sustained a "subluxation" last Tuesday but has practiced without limitations this week. Assuming he gets cleared for contact, Callahan may get the green light.
Down on D: It is not clear whether Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi will be available for Thursday’s game. The 28-year-old blue-liner was scratched Thursday night for only the third time in four-plus seasons. According to the Rangers, Girardi is “banged up.” Coach John Tortorella did not provide an update Wednesday, but Girardi did not participate in the team’s optional practice.
Late arrival: According to Newsday’s Arthur Staple, Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky arrived in the U.S. Wednesday and is due to undergo an physical on Thursday, leaving open the possibility that he could play Saturday against the Sabres. The 36-year-old veteran was suspended by the team earlier this season for failing to report back from the KHL after the lockout was lifted.
Miller time: Rangers prospect J.T. Miller made a strong showing in his first ever NHL game against the Devils on Tuesday. The 19-year-old forward was one of the few bright spots in the team’s 3-1 loss. Although he started on the fourth line, he earned more ice time as the game possessed and finished as one of the team’s top performers. The Rangers have four more games, including Thursday’s match against the Islanders, until they are forced to make a decision on whether to keep him up with the big club or send him back to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL.
Still on the mend: It appears Islanders forward Josh Bailey (knee) is unlikely to be available until the weekend.