Islanders-Rangers Preview

New York’s archrival hockey teams continue to disappoint,

failing to live up to expectations a season after each turned in

solid performances in the playoffs.

The Rangers, losers of five of six, look to deal the Islanders

their 14th defeat in 15 games when they meet Friday night at

Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers (16-17-2) replaced coach John Tortorella with Alain

Vigneault after last season’s second-round exit, and they made

Henrik Lundqvist the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL with a

seven-year, $59.5 million extension Dec. 4, but the club has

battled inconsistency all season long.

The Rangers are 1-3-2 over their last six after Wednesday’s 4-3

shootout loss to Pittsburgh, though they rallied to tie it in the

third period with goals from Mats Zuccarello and Derick

Brassard.

“I think being down 3-1 we were in a tough spot, but we kept

fighting and that’s a good sign,” said Lundqvist, who made 29 saves

but dropped to 2-3-2 with a 3.31 goals-against average since

signing his new deal. “I feel like the last two games we’re making

progress.”

The Rangers hope that’s the case. They ended a four-game losing

streak with a 4-3 shootout win over Calgary on Sunday before

battling back to earn a point against the conference-leading

Penguins.

”We put some points together, and if we do this continuously, I

think guys will start to feel a lot better about themselves,”

forward Brad Richards said.

The Rangers are 8-0-2 in the last 10 meetings with the

Islanders, winning 3-2 on Oct. 29 with Cam Talbot in net.

Lundqvist, who’s started seven straight games, has won his last six

starts against the Islanders with a 1.14 GAA.

If he gets the nod Friday, he’ll be facing a struggling

opponent. Frans Nielsen scored midway through the third period to

put the Islanders up by two goals Tuesday, but Tampa Bay tied it

with 3.8 seconds remaining and won the shootout for a 3-2

victory.

The Islanders (9-19-7) have lost three straight and are 1-9-4 in

their last 14. They were hoping for bigger things after losing a

hard-fought, six-game series to Pittsburgh in the first round of

the postseason – their first playoff appearance since 2007.

”It’s unbelievable, it’s frustrating, it’s disappointing,”

said captain John Tavares, who angrily slammed his stick against

the boards after failing to convert on the game’s final shootout

attempt. ”We’re not happy.”

Evgeni Nabokov made 34 saves and has stopped 58 of 61 shots in

two starts since returning from a groin injury that forced him to

miss 12 games. He lost to Montreal 1-0 in overtime Saturday in his

first game back.

”We just don’t know how to win right now,” Nabokov said.

The Islanders have dropped 11 of their last 12 on the road.

”It’s important how we respond in our next game after a tough

loss like (Tuesday),” coach Jack Capuano said.

Nabokov made 21 saves in the first meeting of the season with

the Rangers and could be in net again for this contest. He’s 1-2-3

with a 2.58 GAA in his last six starts in the series.

The Islanders won the most recent matchup at MSG on March 14,

snapping an eight-game road skid to the Rangers.