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NHL handicapper Jason Yamaguchi provides his prediction for Thursday's game between the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders.

New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers Prediction: Can the Rangers Keep Pace with the Hurricanes?

With teams finishing up their regular-season schedules, we are officially in the home stretch. Just over a week remains in the NHL's regular-season — the majority of teams have already either clinched a playoff berth or been eliminated from contention. On Thursday, one game, between the Islanders and the Rangers, features a team from each of those two categories. Let's take a closer look at how this matchup might shake out.

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New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers Prediction

The Rangers (50-21-6), winners of six of their last seven, have looked like a different team since the trade deadline. I wrote about their chances of making it out of the Eastern Conference here, but their bull case basically boils down to this: they have the likely Vezina winner in Igor Shesterkin, boast elite special teams, and have markedly improved their even-strength play since making a few savvy acquisitions at the deadline. The Rangers are in hot form, something that may well carry them through this matchup with their cross-town rivals.

The Islanders (35-31-10) have been eliminated from playoff contention, the product of a slow start to the year from which they were unable to recover. They have dropped five of their last eight games, and that is no fluke—their expected goals results have taken a complete nose-dive since March. The only thing keeping them afloat has been the strong play of Ilya Sorokin, but one has to wonder how sustainable that is.

As mentioned before, one factor on which the Rangers have heavily leaned is special teams. That should continue to hold up in this spot, as they have an advantage over the Islanders. The Rangers have the fourth-best power play in the league by scoring rate, one that converts 25.7% of its chances. By contrast, Islanders have the 21st ranking PP—they convert just 19.6% of their opportunities. Both teams have high-end penalty kills.

These teams are relatively healthy, something rare to see at this point in the season. Kaapo Kakko remains out of the Rangers' lineup with a lower-body injury, and Scott Mayfield is the only notable absence for the Islanders. Other than them, all regulars are expected to go. As such, injuries shouldn't play a major role in evaluating this matchup. Both teams last played on Tuesday, so neither has a significant rest advantage.

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In essence, this is a game between two teams trending in opposite directions. The Rangers have looked like one of the league's best squads in recent weeks, while the Islanders have continued to drop games on a regular basis by virtue of poor play. The only concern for me is that Alexandar Georgiev may spell Shesterkin in goal for the Rangers, so perhaps wait for their goaltender announcement before placing your bets.

New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers Pick

Pick: Rangers ML (-125) (Bet $125 to Win $100)

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Article Author


Jason Yamaguchi is an avid New York sports fan. He has a proven record of providing +EV bets by combining traditional handicapping tactics with advanced statistics. You can follow him on Twitter @TopMoneyPicks to view all of his bets, including NFL, NHL, and MLB picks.


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