New York Rangers hockey makes its unofficial return tonight as the Blueshirts take on the New York Islanders in an exhibition that will serve as a de facto preview of October 13’s regular season opener.
Tonight marks the the start of a preseason slate dominated by local rivals, as the Rangers will face Islanders, as well as the Devils and Flyers, in home-and-home matchups. A showdown at Barclays Center will complete this preseason series between the New Yorkers on October 4.
Over the course of the 2015-16 season, the Rangers went 0-3-1 against their new crosstown rivals, the last defeat coming their penultimate game of the regular season on April 7, with Kevin Klein providing the lone goal in a 4-1 defeat. It marked the first time in the history of the rivalry, dating back to 1972, that the Islanders had swept the Rangers in a regular season series.
This marks the first time September 2008 that the Rangers and Islanders have met in preseason play, with the two teams splitting a pair, the Rangers’ win coming in a 5-2 decision at Madison Square Garden. Sparked by a quartet of goals in the 2nd period, including two by Brendan Shanahan, the exhibition featured several fights, leading to numerous misconducts.
While this will be the preseason debut for the Rangers, the Islanders opened their preseason slate with a 3-0 win over Philadelphia at Barclays Center. 2014 1st round pick Josh Ho-Sang lead the way with a goal and assist.
The Rangers released their line combinations for tonight’s game earlier this week, featuring ten players, including veteran newcomer Mika Zibanejad and rookie Pavel Buchnevich, making their unofficial Ranger debuts. Among the notable absentees are Mats Zuccarello and Henrik Lundqvist, both of whom participated in the World Cup of Hockey’s semifinal match between Team Europe and Sweden, with Zuccarello‘s European squad winning 3-2 in overtime to setup a showdown in the championship series with Canada, the first game of which will be played Tuesday night in Toronto. On the other side, John Tavares will play for Canada, while the Islanders’ top goalie pair of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss will rep Team Europe.
Sharing goaltending duties for the Rangers will be Mackenzie Skapski and Magnus Hellberg, with Skapski projected to get the start.
For postgame analysis on tonight’s preseason opener, stay tuned to blueshirtsnation.com