Tue, 07 Apr 2020

Rangers-Islanders battle at Nassau carries extra juice

Field Level Media
25 Feb 2020, 10:19 GMT+10

Games between the New York Islanders and New York Rangers at the Islanders' longtime on-and-off-again home, the Nassau Coliseum, are never ordinary affairs.

But for a while, it looked like Tuesday's potential Islanders-Rangers finale at the Coliseum might not have much cache beyond the usual clash between the Big Apple rivals.

Not anymore.

The Islanders and Rangers will both be bursting with momentum Tuesday -- and fueled by a wild final few hours of activity prior to Monday's trade deadline -- when they meet in Uniondale, N.Y. in a game with sudden playoff implications.

The Islanders last played Sunday, when they beat the visiting San Jose Sharks, 4-1. It was New York's second straight win following a winless four-game road trip for the Islanders. The Isles snapped a three-way tie for the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots with the idle Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets and moved within three points of the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.

But the Islanders are just six points clear of the surging Rangers, who won for the eighth time in 10 games on Saturday night by edging the Sharks, 3-2.

Both teams then made major moves Monday. The Islanders, who have scored the ninth-fewest goals in the NHL, shored up their offense by acquiring center Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for three draft picks, including first- and second-round picks in 2020. Pageau's 24 goals are two more than the Islanders' leading goal-scorer, Brock Nelson, has collected.

The Islanders then signed Pageau to a six-year contract extension worth $30 million.

"I don't think there were many people out there that could have filled this need," Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "And we were fortunate to get one of them that could."

The Rangers had the most attractive rental candidate on the market in left winger Chris Kreider, but they signed the impending free agent to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal. Later in the day, the Rangers traded defenseman Brady Skjei to the Hurricanes in exchange for a first-round draft pick.

"Both sides worked hard on this," Rangers general manager John Davidson said of the deal for Kreider, who has 24 goals, four shy of his career-high. "Both sides are very happy with the deal we've been able to put together."

The Kreider news wasn't even the biggest of the day for the Rangers.

Rookie sensation Igor Shesterkin, who has become the Rangers' No. 1 goalie by winning nine of his first 10 NHL starts, and left winger Pavel Buchnevich were in a car accident Sunday night. Buchnevich was described as shook up but fine by Davidson, who said Shesterkin was diagnosed with a non-displaced rib fracture and will be sidelined for at least two weeks.

Shesterkin's emergence relegated future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist to third-stringer duties. Lundqvist will sit in favor of Alexandar Georgiev on Tuesday night.

"I know we're going to sit down after this season," Lundqvist told reporters after practice. "But right now and over the last few weeks, my focus has just been to work hard and be ready."

All this and Tuesday might be the last time the Islanders ever host the Rangers in the boisterous arena known as "The Barn." The Islanders have split their home schedule between the Coliseum and Barclays Center in Brooklyn the last two seasons while their new arena is built at Belmont Park along the Nassau/Queens border.

The arena is expected to be concluded in time for the 2021-22 season, but no announcement has been made yet regarding where the Islanders will play next season.

--Field Level Media

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