Fans react during the singing of the national anthem before an outdoor NHL hockey game between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Islanders, Rangers meet at Yankee Stadium

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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the New York Islanders will face the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Islanders can’t pretend this is like any other game. This will be their first and perhaps only opportunity to ever play in Yankee Stadium. It will naturally be outdoors, which presents it’s own appeal and challenges for the players. And if it wasn’t all of those things, it would still be a match against the rival Rangers.

But more than anything, this is an opportunity for them to get two points they desperately need.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,200 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $275. Starts Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

“When we get out there (tonight), it’ll be all business,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano promised, according to Newsday.

The Islanders’ incredible 10-3-0 run has been stunted by their recent three-game losing streak. They already dug themselves in a deep hole early in the 2013-14 campaign and are consequently last in the Metropolitan Division. If they can’t break out of their recent funk soon, then Islanders GM Garth Snow might have to operate as a seller before the trade deadline and move guys like Thomas Vanek.

In the meantime, they can count on Vanek, Kyle Okposo, and John Tavares to give the Rangers problems, but it’s the Islanders’ goaltending and defense that’s been the sticking point this season. They have allowed at least three goals in six straight contests and have surrendered an average of 3.29 goals per game.

Things are far less grim for the Rangers. They’ve endured some rough patches throughout the season, but they’re 7-3-0 in their last 10 contests and hold second place in the Metropolitan Division. That being said, only four points separate second and seventh place in the division, so the Rangers can’t afford to ease their foot off the gas.

Beyond that, they will also be in a completely unique position tonight. The Rangers are about to become the first team in the history of the NHL to play in back-to-back outdoor regular season games.

They earned a 7-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils in Yankee Stadium on Sunday and that experience might serve them well tonight.

“I don’t think you ever really get used to playing outside, the surroundings, the elements, the ice surface, but kind of knowing what to expect will help,” Rangers captain Ryan Callahan told the Bergen Record. “That excitement is still there. The crowd the atmosphere, it’s pretty easy to get up for these games.”

It should be a fun contest for all involved, but it’s also an important game and a battle over critical points.

Related:

Video: Updating the ice conditions at Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium is sold out for Isles-Rangers

Zubrus in, Nieto likely out for Sharks in Stanley Cup Final opener

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Dainius Zubrus #9 of the San Jose Sharks skates against Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.

But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.

The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.

Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.

Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.

Flames’ Jokipakka (hip) might not play for Finns at World Cup

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Jyrki Jokipakka #3 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.

“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”

Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.

Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).

So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.

Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.

‘Yep,’ Letang will play tonight

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.

Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.

He was asked if he was playing.

“Yep.”

So, no problems?

“Nope.”

And that was that.

No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.

“Very confident,” said Sullivan.

Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.

Former NHLer Bulis calls it a career

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 23:  Center Jan Bulis #38 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on against the Washington Capitals on December 23, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington D.C. The Capitals won 4-2.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.

Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.

Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).