Isles, Rangers kick off stretch of meetings at MSG

11:54 AM, Jan 21, 2014   |    comments
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( - The Rangers and Islanders will meet three times from now until the end of the month, beginning with Tuesday's Battle of New York at Madison Square Garden.

The New York clubs have met twice already this season and will complete the season series over the next 11 days. After facing off tonight in Manhattan, the Rangers and Isles will play outdoors at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 29 before meeting for the final time in the regular season two days later at MSG.

The clubs have split two meetings so far this season, with each team winning once on the road. The Rangers have won five of seven overall in the series, but the Isles have won two straight at the Garden after losing the previous eight matchups in Manhattan.

The Rangers enter Tuesday's meeting on fire, having won three straight and six of their last seven games. The Blueshirts also boast an 11-3-1 mark over their past 15 outings and have moved into second place in the Metropolitan Division, where they are one point ahead of Philadelphia and 13 behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Rick Nash netted two goals to lead the Rangers to their most recent victory, a 4-1 triumph over the visiting Washington Capitals on Sunday. Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan each scored once, while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 24 shots in the victory.

Nash has three goals over his last two games and has scored seven times in his past eight outings.

"He's got confidence, you can tell that," Callahan said of Nash. "With the way he's holding onto pucks in the offensive zone, just putting the puck in the net. He's such a big body out there, when he grabs it he controls the game."

Lundqvist expects to get the call on Tuesday and he has stellar career numbers against the Isles, going 27-12-5 with a 2.12 goals against average in 45 games.

The Rangers, who are 12-11-3 as the host, will close a three-game homestand Thursday against St. Louis before playing their first of two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium on Sunday against the New Jersey Devils.

The Islanders recently split a home-and-home series with the Philadelphia Flyers, falling 6-4 in the road portion on Saturday before notching a 4-3 shootout win on Monday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum.

Kyle Okposo tied the game late in the third period and scored the game-winner in the shootout for the Isles in Monday's afternoon battle against the Flyers.

Okposo scored on a backhand to open the fourth round of the tiebreaker. Anders Nilsson, in his first action for New York since Dec. 9, turned away Sean Couturier's bid to claim just the second win of his NHL career.

Nilsson made 26 saves for an Islanders team that struck twice in the third to erase a 3-1 deficit after blowing a lead in the final frame of Saturday's 6-4 loss at Wells Fargo Center.

The Islanders halted a four-game slide in the series against Philadelphia and beat the Flyers for just the fifth times in the past 20 meetings.

"This is a team we always seem to have trouble with," said Isles captain John Tavares. "And we obviously need to be better in these divisional games. So when we got down a couple goals, we were a desperate team."

The Isles are 12-15-0 as the visiting team this season. They will play their next three games at Nassau Coliseum before being the designated home club in next Wednesday's outdoor game in the Bronx.

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