Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rangers vs Islanders 12/19/06 Preview, 7 ET, MSG

The Rangers and Islanders renew their intense rivalry at Madison Square Garden tonight with faceoff set for approximately 7:08 PM. It will be the second meeting of eight between the clubs this season with a rematch scheduled for next Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.

'06-07 Series: The Islanders lead the series 1-0 after storming into MSG 16 days ago and posting an impressive 7-4 victory which featured the first career four goal game for ex-Devil Viktor Kozlov. The Isles scored the first four goals of the game in a dominant first period which saw them chase second-year Swedish netminder Henrik Lundqvist. With Kevin Weekes in, the Blueshirts mounted a rally by getting the next three in the second due in large part to Brendan Shanahan and Jaromir Jagr. But the Isles' Kozlov scored a backbreaking goal in the final minute to net his second and restore a two goal lead. Shanahan would turn a trick of his own to cut it to one in the third but Kozlov would answer with the final two goals to spark the Fishsticks to a statement win.

Series History: The Rangers lead the all-time series 94-87-19-1 including a record of 57-32-11-1 at the Garden.

Game Info: Despite dropping their last two by a score of 15-3 this past weekend, the Rangers still lead the Atlantic with an 18-12-4 record for 40 points, two ahead of the Devils and five better than the Islanders who enter with a 16-12-3 mark. The Isles are coming off an impressive 6-0 shutout over the Thrashers which was also the return of captain Alexei Yashin. The much criticized leader continued to silence the cynics by scoring his 11th goal in his first game back from injury. While Yashin and Co. lit up Atlanta netminder Johan Hedberg for six to post their second win in three, goalie Rick DiPietro stopped all 37 shots en route to his second shutout of the season.

Newsworthy: The Rangers will most likely be without top center Michael Nylander (flu) for the second consecutive game. Matt Cullen (sprained knee) will also be out and so too could be defenseman Marek Malik, who strained his groin in Sunday's loss to the Devils and sat out the final two periods. After putting veteran D Sandis Ozolinsh on waivers, they have recalled defenseman Thomas Pock from Hartford. Also up for this game is forward Ryan Callahan. The Rochester native made his debut in a shootout loss at Buffalo earlier this month. He was leading the Pack in scoring and had a team best 19 goals. Leading goalscorer Shanahan (22 goals) also might not play..Meanwhile, the Isles made some news this weekend by trading vet blueliner Alexei Zhitnik to the Flyers for Freddy Meyer IV and a conditional 2007 pick. They're hoping the offensive oriented Meyer can provide a spark on the blueline.

Off To Section 411: We'll be in attendance for this one in what looks like a match-up which should favor the healthier Isles. But will Tom Renney's banged up club respond after a closed door meeting against a bitter rival in their own building in which they have struggled to distinguish themselves? They're only 7-6-3 at home while going 11-6-1 away from MSG. It's hard to take this team seriously unless they turn it around and reestablish themselves on home ice. We'll have a report later tonight on how things went.

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