Rangers-Islanders Preview

The New York Islanders are guaranteed to miss the playoffs for a

fourth straight season, but they’ll have one more opportunity to

dent the postseason chances of their biggest rivals.

The New York Rangers, meanwhile, have 10 days to solidify their

place in the playoffs.

The visiting Rangers look to make it five wins in six meetings

this season against the Islanders when the teams meet Thursday

night.

The Rangers (41-31-5) suffered a 1-0 loss Wednesday at Buffalo,

dropping them into a tie with the Sabres for the final two playoff

spots in the Eastern Conference with five games remaining. They had

gone 8-1-1 in their previous 10 games.

Ninth-place Carolina won Wednesday to get within three points of

the Rangers and Sabres.

Buffalo outshot the Rangers 26-14 through two periods and 35-23

for the game.

”They were the more desperate team than we were, for what

reason I don’t know,” coach John Tortorella said. ”It’s not so

much losing as how we played. We played better in the third. The

first two periods are unacceptable.”

Marian Gaborik is scoreless in his last three games but has six

goals and three assists against the Islanders this season,

including a hat trick and the game-winning goal in a 6-5 victory

Dec. 2.

Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves against Buffalo and tied his

career high of 21 consecutive starts set during the 2006-07 season.

He entered Wednesday 56-0-0 in his career when allowing just one

goal, but this time the Rangers weren’t able to provide any

offense.

That has become a major issue lately for New York, which has

scored three goals in the past four games combined, a stretch that

includes a pair of 1-0 shutouts from Lundqvist. His season-high

shutout streak ended at 115:07 on Buffalo’s second-period goal.

Lundqvist is 4-1-0 with a 2.70 goals-against average against the

Islanders this season, including one of his NHL-leading 11 shutouts

in a 2-0 win Dec. 3.

However, he allowed a season high-tying five goals Oct. 11 in

the Islanders’ 6-4 win – their only victory in the last seven

meetings against the Rangers.

The Islanders (29-36-12), who were eliminated from the

postseason race Saturday, dropped their third straight Wednesday

with a 3-2 loss at New Jersey.

They played without leading goal-scorer Michael Grabner, who sat

out because of the impending birth of his child. Grabner, who leads

all rookies with 31 goals and is third with 48 points, is unlikely

to be with the team Thursday.

Frans Nielsen scored twice and has six points in his last six

games. He had a goal and an assist in the October victory against

the Rangers.

Rick DiPietro made 17 saves for the Islanders, who haven’t

qualified for the postseason since 2006-07. They’ve battled through

a stretch losing 20 of 21 games Oct. 23-Dec. 13, which led to Jack

Capuano taking over as interim coach.

”This team can’t go through anything more than what they’ve

been through this year,” DiPietro said. ”It’s disappointing but

we’ve got to bounce back.”

Matt Moulson has three goals and four assists in the five

meetings with the Rangers this season.

The Rangers have won eight of the last 10 meetings at Nassau

Coliseum.