GREENBURGH, N.Y. — One of the hottest teams in the NHL was on the ice Tuesday at MSG Training Center, prepping to play Wednesday night at the Garden against their hottest rival — the one the Rangers have so much trouble beating.
The rebuilding Rangers are surprisingly sitting in second in the Metropolitan Division with 24 points, two behind Columbus. They own a six-game winning streak at home and an 8-1-1 record overall in their last 10 games. The eight wins and 17 points date to Oct. 30 and are both the most in the league in this span.
But the lone regulation defeat came against the Islanders, a 7-5 decision Thursday at Barclays Center in their first get-together of the season. The Islanders are riding a franchise-best eight-game winning streak against them. The Rangers are 1-10-2 in the last 13 meetings stretching back to the 2015-16 season.
They rebounded nicely from the last loss, beating Florida and Dallas. So they may be hot, but the question is: Can they beat the Islanders?
The Rangers are hungry to pass this test.
“A hundred percent,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “We have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder because of how it’s gone as of late.”
They allowed four goals on deflections the last time.
“We’ve been much better the last two games in our net-front [play],” coach David Quinn said.
Ryan Strome joined the cause for the last two games after coming over from Edmonton. Now the former Islanders forward gets to experience life on the other side of the rivalry.
“I just remember looking up in the crowd during the games, seeing some fights in the crowd,” Strome said. “The people yelling in the anthem. … It’s a great rivalry, and one that I definitely miss. So it’ll be fun to kind of get back on the other side of it. It’s a big game.”
The Islanders are 10-7-2, good for fourth in the division. They’re two points behind the Rangers, who have gone from 3-7-1 to 11-8-2.
“I think we’ve got a good confidence level, but we’re not trying to get ahead of ourselves,” Smith said. “… I know a lot of people wrote us off early, but we think we’re better than what people said, and we’re trying to show it.”
Notes & quotes: Alexandar Georgiev will start in goal . . .Right wing Mats Zuccarello (groin) remains sidelined, but Quinn said he’s “getting better.” … Defenseman Brady Skjei was scratched the last two games, but Quinn said there’s “a good chance” he’ll play. “He knows there’s a lot more in his game,” Quinn said, “and he knows he’s got to do better.”