Islanders, Rangers adjust lineups for New York matchup
NEW YORK — The New York Rangers are shaking things up Wednesday in hopes of snapping a lengthy losing streak against the New York Islanders. If the words spoken Sunday afternoon by coach Barry Trotz were any indication, the Islanders will be shuffling the deck as well.
Backup goalie Alexander Georgiev will make a rare start for the Rangers on Wednesday night when they host the Islanders in a battle of longtime rivals at Madison Square Garden.
Both teams are coming off a game against the visiting Dallas Stars. The Rangers continued their recent hot play Monday with a 2-1 win over the Stars, who began a five-game road trip Sunday by routing the Islanders 6-2.
The Rangers (11-8-2) have won eight of their last 10 games (8-1-1). The only game in that span in which they didn’t collect a point? Last Thursday, when the host Islanders posted a 7-5 win at Barclays Center.
The Islanders’ win was their franchise-record eighth straight against the Rangers. Hall of Fame-bound goalie Henrik Lundqvist has started six of those games, including last Thursday when he was pulled after allowing five goals in the first two periods. Lundqvist was spared the loss, which was handed to Georgiev, because the Islanders’ sixth goal ended up being the game-winner.
If all goes according to plan for the Rangers, Lundqvist will be watching a bunch of hungry teammates Wednesday night.
“We have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder because of how it’s gone as of late,” defenseman Brendan Smith told reporters after practice Tuesday.
The Islanders (10-7-2) may feel the same way after Trotz’s blistering assessment of Sunday’s loss — the most lopsided defeat for the Islanders since Trotz became head coach before this season.
Goalie Thomas Greiss was pulled after allowing the first three of the Stars’ four goals in the second period, but Trotz made it clear afterward he wasn’t blaming Greiss, who allowed two goals or fewer in five of his first nine starts this season.
“I heard Thomas take the blame for a couple goals — no, they’re not hiding behind the goalie tonight, sorry,” Trotz said. “Thomas has played very well for us over the course (of the season) and he’s covered up a lot of our mistakes. So I’m putting this on the team. We need more from some of our top guys. Plain and simple, (he’s) done protecting them.”
The Islanders didn’t practice Tuesday, so it will likely take until faceoff Wednesday to determine who he may have been targeting. One possibility is struggling defenseman Nick Leddy, who was on the ice for four Stars goals Sunday and is a minus-45 since the start of last season.
Georgiev hasn’t played since he made his first career appearance against the Islanders and stopped five of six shots in the third period. He last started Nov. 10 when he picked up the win after making 34 saves in the Rangers’ 5-4 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Robin Lehner, who made 11 saves in relief of Greiss on Sunday, is likely to draw the start for the Islanders. Lehner made his most recent start Nov. 10, when he took the loss after making 27 saves as the Islanders fell to the Florida Panthers 4-2. He is 2-4-2 in eight career games against the Rangers.