Tonight, for the fourth time this season, one of the most exciting and bitter rivalries will be renewed when the New York Rangers play host to the New York Islanders at what should be a packed electric house at Madison Square Garden on Seventh and 33rd.
As almost everyone who has followed this classic rivalry knows, the Fishsticks have owned the series lately. Ted Nolan's hard working club has taken the first three this season all by a goal in regulation adding fuel to the fire for Tom Renney's star-laden Blueshirts.
Dating back to that miraculous shootout win backstopped by backup Wade Dubielwicz which sparked the Isles to an unreal win streak to squeak in past Toronto and Montreal, the Islanders have taken the last four. They bring an impressive 9-1-2 record in the last 12 meetings into MSG tonight, even winning five of the past six on Broadway.
In fact, everyone's favorite whipping boy (no not Marek Malik or Marcel "Stonehands" Hossa) Rick "DP" DiPietro has owned the Rangers lately posting an 8-1-2 record along with a miniscule 1.89 GAA in his last 11 starts.
The former 2000 first overall selection has finally developed into the kind of franchise netminder ex-GM now TSN analyst Mike Milbury envisioned when he passed over Marian Gaborik and Dany Heatley to grab the Massachusetts native. Given how gifted those two snipers are, how many Cups have they combined to win? You know the answer.
Still, until DiPietro gets the playoff monkey off his back and helps his team win a series and carries them deep into a postseason, the critics will remain.
Coming off a 35 save performance in a 3-2 shootout home win over the Senators to snap an eight-game losing streak against them, DiPi enters with 11 wins and a respectable 2.31 GAA.
He'll once again be the focal point at one end while Henrik Lundqvist (12-9-1, 1.81 GAA, .931 Save Pct) backstops for the Rangers and hopes to get some much needed offense for a change from the league's worst scoring team (2.21 GF/Gm).
Can Jaromir Jagr and Chris Drury get untracked without antagonist Sean Avery (wrist). Will Ryan Callahan and the possible return of Malik provide enough of a spark to finally give the Rangers a win over their nemesis? Or will Hossa's continued skating without shooting and stone hands draw the ire of the crowd?
Find out tonight when the Rangers (13-9-2) look to snap a two-game skid against the pesky Islanders (13-8-1) in a tight Atlantic race!