The Islanders come into Thursday night's game with the Rangers on the cusp of some decent accomplishments. A regulation win and they'll hit the halfway mark of this shortened season at .500 and they would be tied with the Rangers at 24 points, right on the edge of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.
To get there, the Islanders need to do something they haven't done this season -- earn points in four consecutive games. That elusive consistency has been a problem both times the Islanders and Rangers have met this season, with the Islanders trailing by two goals after the first period on Feb. 7 and Feb. 14 at Madison Square Garden.
They managed to win one of those in a shootout, but more is needed Thursday in a Coliseum that surely will be filled with loads of Rangers fans.
"I'm well aware and the guys are well aware of what this game means, whether it was the Rangers or anybody else," Jack Capuano said. "[Tuesday] night was a good, character win for us [6-3 over the Canadiens]. We had to play sound defensively and work hard. We figured out a way to get it done."
The grind-it-out mentality that pervades the NHL has not exactly been embraced by Capuano's squad -- their 78 goals allowed is second most in the league -- but the true test of their character is how they respond to adversity, not whether they can eke out a 2-1 win.
There could be fireworks as well, to hearken back to a bygone era of Islanders-Rangers. Former Islanders fan favorite Micheal Haley, called up by the Rangers on Tuesday, could be in the lineup Thursday, meaning Eric Boulton likely would dress to match up the tough guys.
The Islanders still will be without Lubomir Visnovsky, home in Slovakia because of the death of a close friend's son. So their defense, which isn't big and physical to begin with, will have to take and dish out some punishment to make things work.
"There's a certain way we have to play, even when there's a certain way the other team has to play," Capuano said. "We've given up some goals, but our offense comes from our defense. That's how we've been successful the last few games."