The Rangers and Islanders started the season by trading 4-0 shutouts in Madison Square Garden (MSG), and now with just six games left, the final meeting at MSG could be do-or-die for the Blueshirts (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
|Rangers||East Division Ranks /8||Islanders|
The Rangers playoff push is in full force and with just six games left, Thursday’s night game against their crosstown rivals will be vital. Catching the Bruins is looking more unlikely unless they drop the ball, but catching the Islanders isn’t out of the realm of possibility:
Boston is up four points on the Rangers with two games in hand
Islanders are up five points on the Islanders with one game in hand
If the Rangers can win both of these remaining games against the Islanders, they’ll be just one point back of their rivals. In addition, the game in hand the Islanders have is against the Boston Bruins after the Rangers season has concluded. It is possible that the Rangers playoff hopes could fall as spectators in that game.
The Islanders are limping over the finish line as the season winds down. The Islanders are 2-4-1 in their last seven games and they have only managed two goals just twice in those seven games. One of those games was against the Rangers where they won 6-1 in a dominating performance. The Islanders have now lost three-in-a-row all of them to the Capitals. But they managed just three goals in those three games and they were shutout twice. The Islanders are a very defensive team and a tough nut to crack. But because they take so few chances, they are struggling to score.
Semyon Varlamov got the day off on Tuesday for the Islanders while he was dealing with some soreness. Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said he is available, but wouldn’t say if he would start. He is expected to get the start, but Trotz could throw a curveball and start rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin who has provided the Islanders with a strong 1B option in goal this season.
The key for the Rangers is scoring the first goal of the game. The Islanders are 20-1-2 when they score the first goal of the game due to them being able to play their system and not have to take any chances. They are just 9-14-3 when they allow the first goal and have to come out of their shells.
Looking to continue his hot play will be Alexis Lafreniere. Since joining the first line three games ago against the Flyers, Lafreniere has recorded a three-game point streak including the crucial game-winning goal in the third period against the Sabres on Tuesday.
Igor Shesterkin is expected to make his 16th start in the past 20 games as the Rangers continue to make the push. Shesterkin was brilliant in his last start making 36 saves on 37 shots to help the Rangers secure a vital win.
Chris Kreider is having a maintenance day and didn’t practice with the team prior to the game. Kreider was officially listed by head coach David Quinn as a game-time decision. Jacob Trouba has resumed practice with the team and is “getting closer” according to Quinn. Trouba won’t play tonight which will make Saturday his next chance at getting in the lineup.