Bundle up… Today’s temperature in New York feels like a heat wave compared to what Wednesday is predicting. A bitter high of 19 degrees. Add the wind and the fact that the puck is dropping at 7:30 at night… I would say this would be the proper form of transportation to the stadium:
But enough of that… it’s January … in New York. The stage is set for the TRUE rivalry of New York, not the one that Jim Dolan created. Lets take a look at what we have in store for Wednesday night.
Goaltenders: Advantage – Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist (18-18-3 .914 SV% 2.54 GAA)- Henrik looked a little shaky in the beginning of today’s game but as the “king” normally does, he turned it around and earned the W. Having already played a game outdoors this season, Lundqvist has an advantage over whoever the Islanders end up playing in goal whether it be the young Poulin or the veteran Nabokov, if he should return from the IR in time.
???????? – The question is still up in the air as to who is starting in net for the Islanders. Kevin Poulin (11-15-1 .894 SV% 3.16 GAA) is coming off an unfortunate loss against the St. Louis Blues. The kid stood on his head but was given the L after a botched no goal call in overtime by the Toronto war room. Evgeni Nabokov (9-8-5 .905 SV% 2.88 GAA) is about to come off the IR, but would Jack Capuano feel that it was the smart thing to start his veteran goaltender on a night where the temperatures are below freezing? The Islanders have a game on Monday against the Boston Bruins so we should have more of an idea who will start once we see who is in net tomorrow.
Defense: Advantage – Rangers
NYR – Ryan McDonagh leads the Ranger defensemen with 29 points. In 54 games, the Rangers defense has managed to give up a total of 136 goals. They are a gritty bunch and are willing to dive in front of shots and take the lane. If the Islanders are going to beat them, they will have to constantly be moving the puck, as this defense does not sit back on their heels.
NYI – Andrew MacDonald leads the Islanders defensemen with 23 points. The Islanders once again have been hit with the injury stick as their two top defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky and Travis Hamonic have both been sidelines with injuries. Visnovsky may make his return tomorrow against the Bruins but after missing a ton of games due to a concussion, don’t look to him to play like the Lubo we all know. The Islanders defense needs to step up to the speedy ranger forwards and be conscious of where their men are. They are notorious for missing their player as evidenced by the +/- statistics. The only defensemen who are on the plus side are Thomas Hickey, the injury plaguing Radek Martinek and the concussed Lubomir Visnovsky. Their leader in points MacDonald has an abysmal -10 rating.
Forwards – Advantage – Islanders
NYR – The Rangers have the talent up front. Brad Richards leads the team with 38 points but the player the Islanders defense needs to keep on check is sniper Rick Nash. Nash can score from any angle and for a big guy has ninja like tendencies that would make any NHL defense look childish. He comes through in the clutch and for the Rangers to be successful, he needs to be present. Also look for Chris Kreider to be a big factor. In three games against the Islanders this year, he has 5 points with 7 shots on goal.
NYI – The captain, John Tavares is second in the NHL in scoring with 64 points. Their top line affectionately known as the TiVo line has a combined 156 points and stands out to be one of the most effective lines in the NHL. Kyle Okposo who was recently snubbed from the US Olympic team and newly acquired Thomas Vanek play the supporting roles for Tavares and for the Islanders to be successful Wednesday, they will look to their top line to fit the bill. 22 year old Brock Nelson is a pleasant surprise for the Islanders with 17 points. The 6’3” monster is not only a power house on the ice, but can bring the energy the Islanders will need when the TiVo line is resting.
Special Teams – Advantage – Rangers
The NYR power play is 8th in the league while the NYI penalty kill is ranked last. The NYI power play is ranked 18th and the NYR kill is ranked 11th. Doug Weight has a lot of work to do with his players if they continue their trend of taking sloppy penalties.