By Brian Monzo
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The rivalry returns tonight. The rivalry of bench clearing brawls, trash talk and fights in the stands. When the Islanders come to MSG battle the Rangers, the Garden will be rocking.
When the Rangers and Islander face-off tonight, it will be a huge game for both teams. The Islanders are 11 points out of a playoff spot, with 12 games to go. The Rangers, with 12 games to go, are clinging on to the 8th spot with 76 points. The Islanders have been playing a hard-nosed brand of hockey. They have earned their way to even having a sniff of playoff glory. The Rangers, coming off a tough traveled West Coast trip, have a tougher task at hand tonight than Charlie Sheen getting another sitcom role (feel like I was late to that party, but had to get it in there). The Islanders are 4-2-4 in their last ten, and under coach Jack Capuano, have been a rugged team to play against.
This season, the Rangers are 3-1 against the Islanders. They last met back on December 27th with the Rangers winning, 7-2.
The Rangers have three things going for them heading into tonight:
1 – Marian Gaborik is ‘due’ for his breakout game. He has 23 points in 19 career games against the Islanders. For the Rangers to get on a roll, Gaborik has to get on a roll. This is a perfect time to start.
2 – Henrik Lundqvist plays his best hockey in the final few games of the season. It seems every season the Rangers need to win games late in the season. The King has a knack of coming up big. The NHL’s leading shutout man is coming off a dominant performance against the San Jose Sharks. That could have been the start of his end-of-season hot stretch.
3 – Ryan Callahan is perhaps playing the best hockey of his career. The soon-to-be captain continues to leave everything he has on the ice. With every game a must win, he consistently shows up when has has to.
This is a must-win game for both teams. The Rangers need the points to hold on to a playoff spot. The Islanders need the “W” to have any shot of staying alive.
The rivalry is back, though I am not sure it ever went away.
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What’s your prediction for tonight’s game? Let us know in the comments below…