April 1, 2011

Isles Hurt Rangers Playoff Hopes

Thursday night's installment of the Islanders-Rangers rivalry had a lot more riding on it than some people may have thought.

Just a week earlier, the Rangers were in 7th place by a decent margin and giving the Montreal Canadiens a run for their money. But a couple of losses coupled with some wins by the Buffalo Sabres have put the Rangers in a very precarious situation as they are tied with the Sabres for the 8th spot.

Surely they would come out flying and give the Isles quite the battle, right? No, not really.

Despite an early goal from Vinny Prospal on a really nice play to Al Montoya's left, the Islanders came back and scored four goals in the second period on their way to a 6-2 win over their rivals.

The Rangers had seven chances on the power play, and didn't look good at all on some of them. For some others, the Isles penalty killers did a fantastic job.

Montoya came up big and made some really nice saves when he had to. He only allowed two goals on 27 shots, and frustrated the Rangers. The smile on his face after the game said it all as he finally got a win against his original team.

The Islanders lost a couple of players to injury during the game, as Frans Nielsen was hit from behind by Marian Gaborik and Ty Wishart suffered a shoulder injury after a collision.

Nielsen has a head injury, and it will most likely be determined that it is a concussion. The NHL failed in not suspended Gaborik for at least a game. So much for the consistency that we spoke of during the radio show last weekend.

Hopefully Wishart isn't out for any significant time. He was playing really well and moving the puck well throughout the first two periods of the game.

Any time he has come up to fill in on defense, Dylan Reese hasn't looked great. But on Thursday night he played well, looked good positionally and even had three assists.

Trevor Gillies would score the final goal of the game for the Islanders. The fact that it happened was a perfect icon for how the game went for the Rangers.

Speaking of Gillies, the game had a lot of intensity to it but once the pendulum swung in the Isles favor, they had most of the hits and won most of the fights.

The Rangers are now left with four games to break a tie for 8th and keep the Carolina Hurricanes away, and they only trail by three points. Henrik Lundqvist was pulled in this one, but was seen limping for much of the day prior to the game after suffering an injury in Buffalo. He didn't look too good at all, and perhaps the injury threw him off a bit. The Rangers have a very tall task ahead of them given how the Hurricanes have played of late with the pressure on.

The Isles take on those Hurricanes Saturday night, when every Ranger fan undoubtedly does a 180 and roots for the Islanders. The Isles haven't fared too well against the Canes this season, and the last time they were here they beat the Isles 4-1 on a blizzardy night just before the all-star break.

NABOKOV NEWS: Believe it or not, Evgeni Nabokov's name has resurfaced again with the goalie looking for permission to go to play for Russia in the World Championships. While Nabokov admitted he wasn't talking to the Islanders directly, there were some conversations going on.

Today it was reported that the Islanders weren't returning calls from the KHL, and the Islanders haven't submitted Nabokov's permission slip. What goes around, comes around.

Good on the Isles to take a hard stance. Bad on Nabokov to not be a good soldier in the first place.

DONOVAN'S DEAL: The Islander signed defensive prospect Matt Donovan earlier in the week, which was speculated for a long time. The Islanders had to make a decision on him this year, and he has played really well for the University of Denver.

The Isles drafted Donovan out of the USHL, which has become a bit of a hot bed of sorts in the past decade when it comes to producing NHLers. The Islanders have fared well with all of the guys they got from the USHL, starting in 2006 with Kyle Okposo.

The Isles have to make some decisions on some other guys, but many of them are still playing in the playoffs. As time goes on, we'll get some more news on those individuals.



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