<
>

Hank needs no help getting up for Isles

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has played in 37 games against the New York Islanders in his past six seasons as a New York Ranger.

The rivalry still hasn't gotten old.

"I feel the same way now as I did the first couple of years," Lundqvist said. "I love to play the New York teams. You can feel the intensity in the building. It means a lot to a lot of people and that affects me when I'm playing. I get more excited, I want to win even more. I love that feeling going into the building."

More often than not, Lundqvist has loved the feeling walking out of the building as well. The 29-year-old netminder has an impressive 21-10-5 record against the Islanders with a 2.21 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.

The rivalry has been lopsided recently -- the Islanders have missed the playoffs and finished as one of the league's bottom five teams for four straight seasons -- but Lundqvist thinks that could change this season.

The Islanders are coming off two straight wins, the most recent a resounding 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay that featured a four-point performance from 21-year-old center John Tavares.

"It looks like the Islanders are going to have a pretty good team this year," Lundqvist said. "I think it's going to be good for hockey in the New York area. Hopefully we can have three teams competing for playoff spots to increase the intensity."

Lundqvist said no explanation is needed for newcomers like free-agent acquisition Brad Richards, who signed a monster nine-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers in July.

"I don't think you need to say much," Lundqvist said. "When we walk out into that building tomorrow, we're going to feel the intensity and what it means to the Rangers fans and Islanders fans. They're great games."

Richards, who previously played in Dallas and Tampa Bay, hasn't experienced many rivalries steeped in tradition. But he said knowing what to expect while playing for New York is just "common sense."

"You come here, you're going to get some more rivalries because of the history of the team," he said. "Obviously, there are going to be three or four of them here. I'm looking forward to it.

"To go on the road and have your fans there, to know it's a big game because of the rivalry, it just makes it a little easier to get up for," Richards continued. "Professionally we have to get up for every game, but this will be a little easier."