The first of 3 match-ups between the cross-town rival New York Islanders is tonight starting in the World’s Most Famous Arena at 7:00pm. This is a great opportunity to get back into the win column since both teams have been struggling this season, Rangers 1-5-1 and the Islanders 2-3-1. After a gut-wrenching and horribly played overtime in Tuesday’s game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers look to improve on their game and not make too many mental mistakes in their own zone.
The forward lines and D-pairs will be the same as Tuesday:
Nash – Zibanejad – Zuccarello
Kreider – Desharnais – Miller
Vesey – Hayes – Fast
Grabner – Cracknell – Buchnevich
McDonagh – DeAngelo
Skjei – Smith
Staal – Shattenkirk
Lundqvist – Pavelec
Personally, seeing David Desharnais as the second line center Tuesday night was baffling knowing his play style. But he impressed me, he hustled and made plays in the offensive zone that I didn’t know he was capable of (not to mention he sniped one over Matt Murray’s shoulder with a surprise release. I witnessed it live). Another lineup move that shocked me was Buchnevich on the 4th line. He’s been one of the most effective forwards on the team since the start of this season, disregarding the -3, he has a goal and 3 assists this year through 7 games. Thankfully he’s getting power play time with Zibanejad and Nash, his production with increase drastically with those two.
Nothing changes on defense. I don’t like Staal and Shattenkirk on a pairing together because Shattenkirk is offensive-minded so if he pinches and gets beat it’s up to Staal to make a play and he’s been declining for 2 years now. Neither are a defensive powerhouse, especially not the veteran Staal. What I do enjoy, however, is McDonagh and DeAngelo on the first pairing. As much as I would like to see Skjei and McDonagh play together, it’s better to keep Skjei and Smith as the 2nd pair because of their chemistry.
Lundqvist gets the start over Pavelec because he’s seen the Islanders more frequently than his back-up.
The Islanders lines and D-pairs look like this*:
Lee – Tavares – Eberle
Ladd – Barzal – Bailey
Chimera – Nelson – Ho-Sang
Pulock – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
Leddy – Boychuk
De Haan – Pelech
Hickey – Mayfield
Halak – Greiss
*subject to change
All eyes are on rookie Ryan Pulock making his debut tonight. The #15th overall pick from the 2013 entry draft is a mobile puck-moving defenseman with a 102mph slapshot from the blue line. He registered 46 points for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 55 games last season, 15 of those points being goals. He practiced on the power play with Tavares, Leddy, Eberle, and Lee Wednesday morning (Cory Wright). Doug Weight did not specify who would be out of the lineup for the 23-year-old Pulock.
No surprise to see that Halak is the guy in net tonight for the Isles at the Garden. His numbers against the Rangers are incredible. Toting a 7-3-0 record, 2.39GAA and a .931 SV% with a shutout since joining the team in 2014.
Puck drop is at 7pm tonight at Madison Square Garden.