Thursday, December 2, 2010

Battle Preview: Rangers and Islanders set for home and home

Sean Avery and James Wisniewski meet again in Part I of a classic home-and-home series when the Rangers and Islanders do battle tonight at The Coliseum before returning to MSG tomorrow.

Tonight is Part I of a classic home-and-home between bitter rivals. Whenever the Rangers and Islanders get together, the names on the backs of the jerseys don't matter. Emotions run high, which will certainly be the case over the next 24 hours when the true Battle of New York takes place. It's Manhattan versus Long Island. Broadway meets Old Country Road. City against country. Fast paced takes on laid back.

Whatever you refer to it, it's one of the best rivalries going. The Rangers and Islanders meet for the 230th time in the regular season at Nassau Coliseum. The Blueshirts lead the all-time series 108-97-19-5 (108-102-19). They're 46-60-8-1 off the Meadowbrook, including a 6-4 loss in the only game this season on Oct.11. A typical wild affair that featured 10 goals and five lead changes with the Islanders prevailing by scoring the last three with former Ranger P.A. Parenteau tying it and Ranger killer Blake Comeau finishing off a three-point night. Rick DiPietro was the winner, stopping 29 shots while Henrik Lundqvist permitted five on 31 taking the loss. Figure it to be a rematch in net with DP pitching a shutout over the Devils five days ago to finally snap the Islander 14-game winless streak. Lundqvist meanwhile has been stronger since returning, backstopping the Rangers to road wins over Florida and Nashville before losing to the Pens in a game he was blameless. Scratch that as Lundqvist sits with Martin Biron getting the call instead.

Does John Tavares get it going or is this the night Marian Gaborik busts loose? Will Comeau again burn his favorite target or can Brandon Dubinsky rediscover the touch that had him with 10 goals in his first 13 before fizzling out since Gaborik returned. A day where James Wisniewski and Sean Avery renew acquaintances after the immature gesture during a stoppage that got the Islander blueliner suspended. The best aspect is the teams get to do it again tomorrow at Madison Square Garden. Home ice hasn't meant a lot recently. Even if the Islanders held serve in Game No.1, usually the road team has fared better. Does it start in half an hour?

A new coach is added to the rivalry with Jack Capuano finally winning his first in place of Scott Gordon. Can he outfox John Tortorella? The fun gets started soon and continues tomorrow. Like Chanukkah and Christmas rolled into one. Fire it up cause it's sure to be interesting.

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