The New York Rangers have a tough task ahead of them tomorrow, taking on a division rival who is flying high after a big win. Simply put, the Islanders decimated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 Thursday night, with John Tavares leading the way with two goals and two assists.
The Rangers' defense has been suspect their first two games of the year, and the matchup with the Islanders isn't going to be a cakewalk at all. Tavares is pretty adapt at putting the puck home around the net, and without Marc Staal the Rangers are going to have to lean on Ryan McDonagh to make sure he doesn't have any space around the crease.
The Islanders are a quick team, something the Rangers didn't deal with well against the Los Angeles Kings. Obviously, you can point to the European trip as an excuse, but there won't be any travel issues this week. The Rangers have been able to sleep in their own beds, and won't really be traveling to play on the Island.
So what are the defensive keys to the game? Join me after the jump to find out.
Aside from McDonagh playing down low, the Rangers are also going to lean on Dan Girardi. The two are both averaging over 27 minutes a game so far, and that's not really expected to change until Staal returns. While there should be no concern when McDonagh and Girardi are on the ice, it's the other two pairings that leave something to be desired.
Michael Del Zotto has been much better the past two games, but is still prone to the occasional turnover in both the defensive and neutral zone. Tim Erixon has also been solid as well, but the Rangers' brass still doesn't know how much the rookie can handle at this stage in the season.
If Mike Sauer plays, he can soak up some minutes himself, but the Rangers probably want to take it easy with him so he doesn't re-aggravate the injury.
In the end, tomorrow's matchup is one the Rangers should expect to win, but it's not going to be easy.
Thoughts on this guys?