(SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off their first playoff appearance in six years,
the New York Islanders are finally beginning to bear the fruit from their
The recent acquisition of Thomas Vanek shows the club no longer sees itself as
a work in progress.
Vanek is slated to make his Islanders debut on Tuesday night in a home meeting
with the struggling New York Rangers.
Owning just two playoff appearances over the past eight seasons, the Islanders
have spent their time building a core through the draft that includes John
Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Andrew MacDonald. They were able to earn
the eighth seed in last season's playoffs before falling in the first round to
the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Isles then began this campaign with raised expectations, making a 4-4-3
start a bit of a disappointment. That led to general manager Garth Snow
parting ways with scoring forward Matt Moulson and a pair of draft picks,
including a 2014 first-round selection, to get Vanek from Buffalo.
The 29-year-old Vanek has amassed 254 goals and 497 points in 598 games with
the Sabres since they selected him fifth overall in the 2003 draft. He owns a
pair of 40-goal campaigns, but the Sabres decided to move him as part of their
current rebuilding effort, something the forward said he did not want to be a
Now the Austria-born sniper will try to put the Islanders over the top.
"I knew it was going to happen sooner or later with the situation in Buffalo,
but obviously when it does happen you're initially shocked," Vanek said of the
trade. "But I'm excited to come here to a great young team with an up-tempo
style and looking forward to it."
Vanek will join Tavares and Okposo on the top line, with the duo looking to
remain hot with their new linemate. Tavares has four goals and nine assists
over a 10-game point streak, two shy of his career best.
Tavares has also logged a helper in six straight games, while Okposo has
totaled three goals and five assists over a five-game point streak.
Okposo and Frans Nielsen both scored in Saturday's 5-2 loss to Philadelphia,
the Islander's sixth in eight games. Nielsen scored in his fourth consecutive
game and his seven goals are one more than he scored all of last season.
Kevin Poulin allowed four scores on 31 shots in his second start of the
season as the Islanders failed to carry in the momentum secured following a
4-3 win over the Penguins the previous night in which they netted three third-
"It is tough when you dig yourself a hole. It is tough to come back,
especially when you did it the night before. We were not good enough
throughout the game," said Tavares.
The Rangers have had very few games in which they have been good enough to
Following a season-opening 3-6-0 road trip, the Rangers enjoyed their home
opener at the renovated Madison Square Garden on Monday night but saw
themselves shut out for the third time this season with a 2-0 setback to the
After missing a pair of games due to an undisclosed injury, Henrik Lundqvist
got the start and made 25 saves in defeat.
"It's fun to play here again," Lundqvist said. "It was a disappointing loss
but it was great to be back."
New York had its home opener minus Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin
due to injury.
Hagelin, though, could make his season debut tonight. He had 10 goals in 48
games last season and underwent shoulder surgery in late May.
With his recent injury, it is unknown if Lundqvist will start on back-to-back
nights. He is 27-11-5 with five shutouts and a 2.07 goals against average in
his career versus the Islanders, while backup Cam Talbot has made just two
career starts and none versus the Isles.
Evgeni Nabokov is likely to start for the Islanders, having gone 7-7-3 with a
2.48 GAA in 17 career meetings with the Blueshirts.
This is the first of five meetings this year between the New York clubs. The
Rangers have won seven of the last nine encounters overall and three of their
last four on Long Island.
This will be the only game played between the clubs this season at Nassau
Coliseum. The other attributed home game to the Isles in this series will be
played at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 29.
The Sports Network