The New York Islanders and New York Rangers make up one of the most intense rivalries in all of sports. The geographic location between the two, the history, it always makes for a playoff atmosphere with bragging rights on the line. For anyone on either side of it, it’s a pretty crazy thing to be a part of. Jason Chimera, who is coming off his first season as an Islander, had this to say a day before a 4-2 win over the Rangers on February 16th… “I’ve only been here six months and I hate ’em,”. Chimera added to that by saying, “It’s not just the team, it’s the people that cheer for them. You hear your neighbors talking about the Rangers and you want to beat them even more.” If someone just joining the team already thinks that of the Rangers, imagine someone who’s been on the team longer than a season. It’s a rivalry with a storied history that goes all the way back to when the Islanders first entered the league in 1972 and now, for one game, it’s heading to Bridgeport. They’ve faced off on Long Island (Nassau Coliseum), in Manhattan (Madison Square Garden), Brooklyn (Barclays Center), and even outdoors in the Bronx (Yankee Stadium, 2014 Stadium Series) and now their latest venue, Bridgeport, Connecticut (Webster Bank Arena) for a preseason matchup. Conveniently, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack are also located in Connecticut and those two AHL clubs have a fierce inter-state rivalry as well.
The game will take place on September 22nd. Up until last season, there hadn’t been any Islander-Ranger preseason games since 2007 –most likely due to a fight-filled exhibition game on September 24th, 2007– but the rivalry returned to the preseason last year with two games. The first time the Islanders played the Rangers this past preseason was on September 27th at Madison Square Garden. For the Islanders, it was a split-squad game and so they had the other half of their roster in Philadelphia to play the Flyers at the same time. However, the Islanders mades sure to send the better roster over to MSG.
The Islanders would lose the game 5-2 despite goals from Jason Chimera (first game in an Islanders’ uniform) and Nick Leddy but the two teams would meet again on October 4th, this time in Brooklyn at Barclays Center. The Islanders once again sent out a pretty good lineup which included Dennis Seidenberg who was making his unofficial Islanders debut after signing a one-year contract during the World Cup of Hockey while he played for Team Europe alongside Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss.
The game was also significant because Brendan Burke called his first game for the Islanders after being named Howie Rose’s successor by MSG Networks during this past offseason. The Rangers struck first but Cal Clutterbuck scored twice in his preseason debut, giving the Islanders a 2-1 lead with 13:54 remaining in the third period. With 8:59 to play, the Rangers tied it and the game went to overtime. In overtime Brady Skjei took a lead pass from Kevin Hayes and was in all alone on J-F Berube who made the save to keep his team alive. With under 30 seconds to go in overtime it was the newest Islander, Dennis Seidenberg throwing a shot on goal and after the shot was stopped by Raanta the rebound was there for Josh Bailey who scored and gave the Islanders a 3-2 overtime win over their rivals. The point is when these two teams play each other, they want to win regardless of the situation.
Bridgeport will host an Islander preseason game for the third time in four seasons and for the sixth time overall. For awhile, the Islanders last preseason game in Bridgeport had been back in 2011 against the Bruins but NHL preseason hockey returned to Bridgeport with a 6-1 Isles loss to the Bruins on October 3rd, 2014. The Islanders then took a year off from the Bridgeport game and then this past preseason it returned once again, this time against Washington. The Islanders lost the game, played on October 1st, 2016, 2-1 despite a fantastic game from J-F Berube. The team’s only goal came early in third period to tie it at 1-1 as Ryan Pulock took a slap shot that was stopped by Braden Holtby and then Lee kept whacking at the loose puck until eventually scoring. 17 players that suited up for the Islanders during the 2016-2017 season have played at least one game for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers so for fans of the Sound Tigers, it will be cool to see how players have matured and for those players themselves, they get to return to a place where they improved their game. The capacity for a hockey game at Webster Bank Arena is listed at a little over 8,500 seats so I’m sure we’ll see a sell out and a nice crowd for this Islanders-Rangers preseason battle on September 22nd with puck drop scheduled for 7:30 pm ET.