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NHL Finale At Yankee Stadium Promises To Be Nastier Than The Opener

Islanders Will Be Seeking To Clinch Season Series With Win Over Rangers
Derek Stepan, left, Chris Kreider and the rest of the Rangers will be looking for a Yankee Stadium sweep when they take on the Islanders on Jan. 29, 2014. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Derek Stepan, left, Chris Kreider and the rest of the Rangers will be looking for a Yankee Stadium sweep when they take on the Islanders on Jan. 29, 2014. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Sunday’s outdoor game at Yankee Stadium was a big-time success. More than 50,000 people showed up, there was plenty of offense and it was a windfall for the NHL ratings-wise.

The only thing it lacked was true animosity on the ice.

That shouldn’t be a problem on Wednesday night when the Islanders get their crack at the Rangers in what is sure to be a frigid big ballpark in the Bronx.

The Rangers defeated the Devils 7-3 on Sunday and even though the teams have written their fair share of New York City area hockey history over the years, the game felt more like a made-for-television special for the country than it did a battle between long-time division rivals. The nastiness was set aside in favor of wide eyes and soaking in atmosphere.

Fans didn’t only pack the legendary stadium, they showed up in droves in their living rooms.

The Rangers and Devils averaged 2.079 million viewers and produced a 1.3 HH rating, making it the most-watched and highest-rated single NHL regular-season game ever on NBC, excluding NHL Winter Classics, according to Fast National data from The Nielsen Company.

Due to the day of the week, the Islanders and Rangers may not prove to be as big a hit nationally, but you can bet there will be few empty seats and plenty of provincial juice flowing in the city and her neighboring suburbs. Though the Islanders have struggled for much of the past 10 years, they always bring it against the Rangers. They’ve already won two of three meetings this season, both coming at Madison Square Garden, and can clinch the season series with a win Wednesday.

The teams are also fighting for playoff berths in what is an extremely closely packed Eastern Conference. The Rangers would be in the playoffs if the season ended Tuesday. They are currently in second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders, however, have some work to do. They are seven points out of both third place in the Metropolitan and the second wild card spot. Finishing in either spot will put the Isles in the playoffs for the second straight season.

Islanders defenseman Brian Strait, left, congratulates forward Kyle Okposo after he scored in the second period against visiting Boston on Jan. 27, 2014. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

Islanders defenseman Brian Strait, left, congratulates forward Kyle Okposo after he scored in the second period against visiting Boston on Jan. 27, 2014. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

The Rangers had lost two straight before beating New Jersey on Sunday, including a 5-3 defeat to the Islanders at the Garden on Jan. 21. The Islanders scored four unanswered goals on their way to the win.

Derek Stepan has paced the Rangers of late, registering eight points in his last five games. The 23-year-old forward, who will represent the U.S. in Sochi next month, scored on a penalty shot and added an assist in the win over the Devils on Sunday.

Rick Nash, who will play for Team Canada at the Olympics, has seven goals in his last five games for the Rangers, who have won seven of 10 overall.

The Islanders have stumbled since last week’s win at the Garden, going winless in their last three (0-2-1). Defense and goaltending have been major problems for them all season. The Isles have allowed 185 goals, by far the most in the Eastern Conference and second most in the NHL.

Kyle Okposo was the lone bright spot for the Isles’ in their 6-3 home loss to Boston on Monday, registering a goal and two assists. Okposo is tied with John Tavares for the team lead with 23 goals and has a career-high 57 points, seven behind Tavares.

Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky returned to the Isles’ lineup Monday after missing more than three months with a concussion. It is believed Evgeni Nabokov, who has missed 21 games this season due to a groin injury, will get the start in net Wednesday. The 38-year-old goaltender replaced ineffective Kevin Poulin in the third period on Monday and made one save in 12 minutes, his first game action since Jan. 6.

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