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Battle for NY Resumes in Garden

Posted by Webster Washington on 3/6/2016 4:04:50 AM

NHL fans in New York are going through their annual ritual of yearning for an inner-city playoff duel. They'll get a bit of a preview Sunday when the Islanders and Rangers face off in Madison Square Garden. There's a chance for the dream playoff confrontation, since both teams are squarely in the post-season picture, though way behind Washington in the Metropolitan Division.

Strong at Both Ends

The Islanders will be on the tail end of a seven-game road trip that has been largely successful. But that success would mean little if they didn't cap it off with a win against their rivals. They have the stuff to do it, too. Center John Tavares and winger Kyle Okposo are two thirds of a strong starting line that likes to jump on people. Tavares had 13 points in the nine games leading into Thursday's meeting at Winnipeg, and Okposo leads the team in assists with 33. At the other end, Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak have been splitting time in goal for a team that allows 2.4 goals per game, eighth in the league. Their 87 percent penalty kill leads league.

The Rangers had a promising February, capped off by winning five of the last six. Mats Zuccarello, who leads the team in points with 47, has picked up 11 points in the eight games going into Thursday's collision with Pittsburgh. Defenseman Keith Yandle was part of trade rumors before he reeled off seven points in nine games, and the Rangers held on to him. It will be interesting to see how much work they give veteran forward Eric Staal, whom they acquired in a trade-deadline deal with Carolina.

Plus Play Either Way

The Islanders lead the series, 2-0, both games being in Brooklyn, and the last being a 3-1 game back in mid-January. The Rangers are coming off of Thursday and Friday games at Pittsburgh and Washington. The Islanders will be off of the Thursday matchup at Winnipeg. The two teams are pretty evenly matched, and I wouldn't hesitate to take a plus figure either way here. I see nothing on the over/under front, but it might be worth it to take a gander at the draw in the three-way category.

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