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4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ETNaN:� BRT, November 15, 2018
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York  Attendance: 13,472

Rangers-Islanders matchup will mean something this time

New York Rangers at New York Islanders

  1. The Rangers beat the Canucks, 2-1, at home on Monday, improving to 6-0-1 in their last seven games after starting the season 3-7-1. During the seven-game point streak, four games have been decided in overtime or a shootout, and all have been decided by two or fewer goals.
  2. Brett Howden scored what proved to be the game-winner for New York against Vancouver, the fourth goal and 10th point for the rookie this season. Howden, who was acquired in the trade that send Ryan McDonagh and J.R. Miller to the Lightning, ranks third in points by rookies this season.
  3. The Islanders have dominated this rivalry in recent years, going 11-1-0 against the Rangers since 2015-16. That's tied for the best 12-game span by either side in this series -- the Rangers were 11-1-0 against the Isles from October 21, 1972 -- October 19, 1974.
  4. The Islanders beat the Canucks, 5-2, at home on Tuesday, snapping a three-game losing streak. The Islanders are one of nine teams with a perfect record (they're 8-0-0) when allowing two or fewer goals this season.
  5. Tom Kuhnhackl had a pair of goals in the win over Vancouver, his second and third of the season. He had just two goals in 69 games last season with Pittsburgh, and has never scored more than five in his career.
  6. The Rangers are 5-4-0 when allowing the first goal, the fifth-best record in the league. However, they're just 4-3-2 when scoring first, tied for the worst record in the league. The Islanders are 7-1-2 when getting on the board first, the seventh-best record in the NHL.

NEW YORK -- Neither the New York Islanders nor New York Rangers seemed to be candidates to liven up a bleak-looking fall and winter for Big Apple sports. But now Islanders-Rangers games might be the only compelling theater in New York until baseball season starts.

A pair of teams in the midst of surprisingly solid starts will square off for the first time this season Thursday night, when the Islanders host the Rangers at Barclays Center.

Both squads beat the visiting Vancouver Canucks in their previous games. The Rangers extended their point streak to seven games Monday, when they beat the Canucks 2-1. The Islanders then snapped a three-game losing streak Tuesday by knocking off Vancouver 5-2.

The wins left the longtime rivals tied for second place in the Metropolitan Division -- a far different spot than most would have forecast for the duo after last season, when the seventh-place Islanders and eighth-place Rangers were separated by three points as they brought up the rear in the Metro.

The Rangers embarked upon a rebuilding plan when they dealt several veterans at the February trade deadline and hired rookie head coach David Quinn in May.

The Islanders, who hired reigning Stanley Cup winner Barry Trotz as head coach in June, appeared to be following suit in July, when star center John Tavares left as a free agent for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Instead, the Islanders (9-6-2) and Rangers (9-7-2) may be playing for a share of first place Thursday night. A win by either team and a regulation loss by the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Florida Panthers will create a tie atop the division.

It's early, of course, but an Islanders-Rangers game that matters offers some unexpected excitement on an otherwise barren New York sports landscape. The third NHL team in the tri-state area, the New Jersey Devils, have lost nine of 12 and have the fewest points in the Eastern Conference. The NFL's Giants and Jets are a combined 5-15 and vying for top-five draft picks while the NBA's Knicks and Nets are a combined 10-20.

Plus, Islanders-Rangers games have been notoriously combative, both on the ice and in the stands, since the Islanders joined the NHL in 1972. The Rangers have earned three more wins (125-122) over the Islanders and hold a narrow 878-861 lead in goals scored

"We've talked about it a little bit but you hear more from the outside," first-year Islanders winger Tom Kuhnhackl told reporters following practice Wednesday. "You hear about the rivalry. It's something special. I'm excited."

The Islanders have dominated the series the last three seasons. They have won the last seven games in the series and are 11-1-0 against the Rangers since moving to Barclays Center, where they have never lost to the Blueshirts.

"I think, so far, obviously, the record doesn't lie," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist told reporters following practice Wednesday. "They've been better than us at the Barclays Center, so we've got to do what we can to turn that around. They always come out hard and play with confidence and we'll match that."

Lundqvist and Thomas Greiss, each of whom earned the win over the Canucks earlier this week, are expected to face each other in a battle of number one goalies Thursday night. Lundqvist made 25 saves against Vancouver on Monday, when he recorded the 437th victory of his career to move into a tie for seventh-place on the NHL's all-time wins list with Jacques Plante. Greiss made 22 saves Tuesday.

Lundqvist is 30-20-7 in 59 career appearances against the Islanders. Greiss is 3-0-1 in five games against the Rangers.

Updated November 15, 2018

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