Even in late October, a game between the New York Islanders and New York Rangers comes with plenty of anticipation.
The fact that both teams are in dire need for a win will further ramp up the intrigue Wednesday night, when the Islanders are slated to host the Rangers in the first meeting of the season between the archrivals.
Each squad will enter the meeting in Elmont, N.Y., mired in a three-game losing streak. The Islanders last played Saturday, when they finished a back-to-back road set with a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.
The Rangers are completing a back-to-back set after losing at home Tuesday night to the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in a shootout. The Rangers fell to the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in overtime on Thursday before losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 on Sunday. All three defeats came at home.
After the consecutive setbacks to a pair of teams that finished last season in the lottery, the loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche marked some progress for the Rangers, who reached the Eastern Conference finals last season.
The Rangers overcame a pair of one-goal deficits and outshot the Avalanche 46-44 before the shootout, when Evan Rodrigues scored in the fourth round and former Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev preserved the win by stopping Alexis Lafreniere.
“Obviously, you’d like to get the (extra) point, but we definitely played a lot better than we have in the last couple of games,” said Barclay Goodrow, who scored the Rangers’ first goal, in the second period. “So maybe see it as a starting point for something to catapult us through … the next little stretch here.”
The Islanders, who advanced to the NHL semifinals in 2020 and 2021 before missing the playoffs by 16 points last season, have struggled to establish an offensive identity under first-year coach Lane Lambert.
After scoring a total of 12 goals in consecutive wins over the Anaheim Ducks and the Sharks, the Islanders have been outscored 12-6 during their losing streak, and they haven’t held a lead. In addition, while the team’s defensemen have combined for seven goals, the trio of Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal and Jean-Gabriel Pageau — who combined for 70 goals last season — remain scoreless.
Lambert shuffled the lineup during the trip to Florida. Josh Bailey, who has played 998 games for the Islanders, was scratched against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday before Anthony Beauvillier, who had a combined 101 points the previous three seasons, was scratched on Saturday.
“There’s no concern. The right pieces are here,” Lambert said Saturday night. “It’s just a matter of generating chemistry, and if things are not going the way we want to, do something in terms of moving our guys around. They understand that.”
The Rangers are playing their second back-to-back set of the season. They played consecutive road games Oct. 13-14, beating the Minnesota Wild 7-3 before falling to the Winnipeg Jets 4-1.
The Wednesday game marks the only one this season between the Islanders and Rangers in Elmont. The teams split last season’s four-game series, with each earning a road sweep.
The Islanders are 133-127-19-7 (wins-losses-ties-overtime losses) all-time against the Rangers, their most frequent opponent since joining the NHL in 1972.
–Field Level Media