GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Given the current plight of both teams, something's got to give at the Garden Friday night. Someone has to walk away with a win and two points.
The Islanders enter the game with one victory in their last 14 games (1-9-4). But the Rangers have plenty of problems of their own with a 1-3-2 record during a nine-game homestand that was supposed to turn the season around.
"Both teams haven't played the way they wanted in the last couple of weeks," said the Rangers' Carl Hagelin, who had a goal and an assist in the shootout loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday. "You're going to see two teams come out with a bang, two teams that really want two points. It's important for us to show up in the first period."
Coach Alain Vigneault expects Henrik Lundqvist, who suffered a sore neck Wednesday after taking a hit to the head in overtime from Chris Kunitz, to make his eighth consecutive start. Lundqvist was not at Thursday's optional skate. Cam Talbot, who backstopped the 3-2 road win over the Islanders Oct. 29, was the lone goalie among 11 players.
"I didn't hear anything, so I'm assuming everything is all right," Vigneault said. "If he's good to go, he's going to play. We're playing four games in six nights, so there is a possibility, a good possibility, that Cam is going to play one of those games. I'm not quite sure which one."
The Rangers' window of opportunity from this rare long homestand is closing fast. They host Minnesota on Sunday and Toronto on Monday.
"You've got to play well at home to make the playoffs," Hagelin said. "We've got to get a couple of wins here. We haven't won enough at home and we should pride ourselves at being a good home team . . . The expectations heading into this homestand were that we'd win a lot of games, and we still have a chance to get some."
The Rangers haven't lost to their rivals in 10 home games (8-0-2), but when these rivals tussle, the past means little. Even though the Rangers (16-17-2) and Islanders (9-19-7) are struggling, the Garden should be rocking.
"They're always big games and there's always a lot of emotion," center Brian Boyle said. "That's what kind of makes a rivalry special. The building is going to be loud and that's always a fun game to play."
Notes & quotes: The Rangers made a few moves before the holiday roster freeze went into effect. Forward J.T. Miller was recalled from AHL Hartford and Arron Asham and defenseman Dylan McIlrath were sent down.