If this were a classic western, the gunslingers would be at either end of the street, then start strolling toward each other at 7 p.m. That when the hype ends.
Sixth-place Ottawa (48 points) not playing tonight and ninth-place Winnipeg idle, too. Isles can tie Sens with two points in regulation or otherwise. No. 8 Rangers can tie Isles with 46 points with a regulation win.
Same lineup for Rangers. Expecting same lineup for Isles.
Henrik Lundqvist vs. Evgeni Nabokov.
We’ll know the lines for sure from warm-ups, but expect---as written yesterday:
Nash-Stepan-Callahan; Hagelin-Brassard-Zuccarello; Clowe-Richards-Boyle; Pyatt-Powe-Asham.
All the pre-game chatter has wound down. Hard to find a player who doesn’t think tonight’s game here in Uniondale will be anything less than a battlefield.
“Just get myself ready for a playoff game tonight,” said Derick Brassard, who is new to the rivalry and has played just two games at the Coliseum, and took part in the Rangers optional skate. “The guys just told me there’s going to be a lot of Rangers fans here,” he said. “We don’t really have a rivalry in Columbus; there’s a lot of Detroit fans when they’d come in. Well, Detroit and Chicago. I expect an intense game, we want some points, we’re going to be hungry.”
Brassard said it took just 30 minutes on the road to travel for the morning skate. Compared to Columbus travel, “that’s not far. So it makes it probably more intense because the playoff race is really tight and we’re against each other.”
Predictably, coach John Tortorella’s theme remained the same: “The most important thing is two points…All we’re looking for tonight is two points.”
He did touch on four non-game topics, questions asked by Butch Goring and other Islanders media folks, so forgive me if it sounds familiar:
Derek Stepan. “He was brutal early… He works at it every day, all parts of his game. He has an intangible about him, he became a pro pretty quickly.”
Brad Richards: “It’s been a struggle for Brad. He shows signs of getting out of it, just hasn’t gotten totally on top of it. There’s still time. I think there’s a lot of expectations on him. I’m not a stat guy, but on the ones we keep, you’d be surprised where he sits, how many plays he still makes, even though there’s not a lot to show for it. Richie knows, and wants to do more.”
On the trade with Columbus: “They’ve balanced the middle of our lineup. We lost the middle of it, I don’t think any of us really felt how naked we would be. I saw it the first game. I think we’ve corrected that. (Ryane) Clowe comes in, Brass (Brassard) has played very well. Johnny (Moore) the defenseman , he’s an interesting one, we’re trying to teach him. We’ve added a little more grind to our game as we go through this stretch here and if we have an opportunity to keep on going.”
Brian Boyle: “Brian has always tried to concentrate on the hitting part of the game, the rest of his game is improving.”