Rangers-Islanders Preview

The New York Rangers have an ample cushion atop the Eastern

Conference, but coach John Tortorella’s focus is on turning around

a sluggish stretch and not on where his team sits in the

standings.

The Rangers look to re-establish their success on the road by

beating the rival New York Islanders again Friday night.

The Rangers (38-15-5) are on top of the East by seven points

over Northeast Division-leading Boston but haven’t been able to

continue pulling away in the race recently, dropping two of three

following an 8-1-1 stretch. Those struggles continued with

Tuesday’s 2-0 loss at Pittsburgh.

Tortorella isn’t concerned with the order in the East and

doesn’t think it factors in any additional motivation for

opponents.

“I don’t even think about first place. I think about every game,

we’re trying to win,” he said. “I don’t even look at the standings.

Again, we’re just trying to get better as a team and prepare each

and every day to try to win hockey games.

“I sense teams are hard to play against from day one in this

league because it’s a tough league. No matter what team we play,

it’s a dogfight. That’s the way the National Hockey League is.”

Since Tortorella joined the Rangers on Feb. 23, 2009, they’ve

accumulated 67 road victories to rank among the most in the NHL.

They’re 19-8-3 as the visitor this season.

Facing the last-place Islanders (25-27-8) is a good chance for

the Rangers to crack 20 road wins for a third consecutive season.

They’re 10-3-1 in the last 14 meetings, winning three in a row

after a 3-0 victory Dec. 26.

Four of the Rangers’ next five games are against teams out of

playoff position before they host the Bruins on March 4.

Marian Gaborik has 13 goals and seven assists in 15 meetings

against the Islanders since joining the Rangers as a free agent

prior to 2009-10, with six goals and five assists coming in seven

road matchups.

The All-Star right wing enters this meeting on a five-game goal

drought.

Ryan Callahan, whose 23 goals are second on the team to

Gaborik’s 27, hasn’t found the back of the net in three games after

scoring six times in the prior four contests.

The captain had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 victory in the

most recent game on Long Island on Nov. 15.

The Islanders have dropped five of eight and followed a 6-0 loss

to Ottawa on Monday with a 2-1 defeat at Buffalo the following

day.

“This is no time to panic,” said interim coach Doug Weight, who

filled in behind the bench against the Sabres because coach Jack

Capuano had the flu.

“If you sit on the plane, you look at it as catastrophic,”

Weight said. “But as tough as it is, when teams are struggling, it

can change in a hurry. So we have to get our swagger somehow

offensively back. And it’s there to be had.”

Production from John Tavares and Matt Moulson would help.

Tavares leads the Islanders with 58 points but has five in the

past 11 games and none in the last two while being limited to two

total shots on goal.

Moulson’s 25 goals are a team high, but he has none in four

games.

Both have found success against the Rangers, registering five

points each in four season meetings.

Tavares has 15 points in 15 games versus the bitter rival, while

Moulson has 17 in 17.