With the holiday season having started and others about to be celebrated, the Blueshirts will play their New York rival in a key division game before the beginning of the holiday break (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
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The Rangers are coming off a tough 3-2 defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins. New York had a good start to the game as they were up 1-0 just seconds into the game. The Rangers dominated the opening 30 minutes, but only having one goal to show for it would lead to their downfall. Pittsburgh raised their game and converted on two power-play goals to take the lead into the third period. After goals by Sidney Crosby and Chris Kreider, the Rangers would push for the equalizer including some good chances in the final few minutes. Perhaps the biggest chance was when Mika Zibanejad had a partial breakaway and was taken down by defenseman Brian Dumolin. Zibanejad went crashing into Penguins netminder Tristan Jarry and Filip Chytil just couldn’t get his stick on the puck to bury the rebound. The Rangers wouldn’t get a late-game six-on-four power-play and the Penguins would kill off the rest of the game.
“There should’ve been a call on somebody, whether it’s goalie interference for us or a trip for them,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “You make up your mind.”
Rangers vs Islanders
The Blueshirts will now have to play another key divisional game right before having a few days off for the holiday break. The Rangers won’t play again until December 27th where they will host the Washington Capitals for their third straight divisional game.
Perhaps one of the biggest question marks in the lineup will be if Sammy Blais is in the lineup. Blais took a very undisciplined penalty after being suckered in by a Penguins skater. Blais’s penalty at the end of the second period would lead to the Penguins second goal. Blais didn’t play another shift for the rest of the game. Julien Gauthier would return to the lineup if Blais is a healthy scratch.
One matchup that should be on full display is the battle between best friends in the nets. Igor Shesterkin and Ilya Sorokin are both projected to get the start for their respective teams. The two goalies grew up together in Russia and became very close. The Islanders lost backup goaltender Semyon Varlamov to an injury which likely means that Sorokin will get a heavy workload. Sorokin has a record of 10-10-1 with a .926 save percentage whereas Shesterkin has a 16-5-4 record to go with a .918 save percentage.
Besides Varlamov, the Islanders have a trio of injuries to some key players. Adam Pelech, Cal Clutterbuck, and Kyle Palmieri are all currently listed as day-to-day and it’s not currently known if one or any of the three will be available. Pelech, known for his ability as a shutdown defenseman, is having a great year and he plays some very important minutes for the Islanders. He’s also contributed with eleven points in 27 games as he is on pace for his best offensive production of his career. Clutterbuck as Rangers fans know, make up a dangerous fourth-line with Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas. The trio will hit anything that moves and they are used to help grind down the opposing team’s players.
The Blueshirts enter this game with a divisional record of 3-5 whereas the Islanders enter with a 7-3 record. The Rangers concluded a three-game road trip going 2-1-0 while the Islanders will conclude a five-game road trip on Thursday night. The Islanders currently have a record of 1-2-2 in their last five games.
The Islanders have won both meetings thus far this season and this will be the final time the two teams will face off in the regular season this year.
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