Stakes rising in Rangers-Islanders’ rivalry

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The geography guarantees that the New York Islanders and Rangers will always be rivals, but since the start of the cap era, the gap between these two clubs has often been substantial. The Rangers have made the playoffs in eight of their last nine campaigns, including their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. The Islanders have only made the postseason twice over that span and lost in the first round both times.

The one-sided nature of that rivalry from an overall performance perspective has come to an end though and Tuesday’s game between these two clubs should have a different feel because of it. When they last played on Oct. 14, the Islanders were seen as a team with plenty of potential given the promising young talent they had and the key additions they had made. Now though, the Islanders’ potential is no theory. They’ve shown what they can do through 42 games, posting a Metropolitan Division-leading 28-13-1 record.

The Rangers aren’t far behind though after winning 13 of their last 14 contests, making the two points at stake very valuable for both clubs.

“Certainly it’ll be a heavyweight-style game,” Islanders forward John Tavares predicted, per the team’s website. “It’ll be a big test and certainly with only so many games heading into the break, we want to keep things going and finish off on the right foot. Certainly playing these guys always brings the best out of you.”

That’s something their opponents can agree on.

“It’s a team that’s basically red hot since the start of the season,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told the Bergen Record. “It’s going to be a New York classic. It should be a lot of fun for both teams. Right now, they’re the best in our division and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Including tomorrow’s game, the New York squads will face each other four more times this season. Given how they’ve played so far, a postseason series between the teams is certainly a possibility as well.