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Isles ready for initial Blueshirt invasion

Arch Rival Rangers to Visit Barclays Center Wednesday Night

December 1, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ryan Strome and the Islanders are on a hot streak as they brace for Wednesday’s invasion of Barclays Center by the arch rival New York Rangers. AP photo
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The Islanders won for the third time in four games Monday night, using an empty-net goal from Ryan Strome to seal a 5-3 victory over the visiting Colorado Avalanche in front of 11,585 fans at Barclays Center.

But rather than bask in the glory of picking up at least a point for the fourth straight contest, the Islanders (13-8-4, 30 points) quickly shifted their focus toward the one game every hockey enthusiast in the Big Apple has been waiting for since the franchise officially relocated here in November.

Even Strome, who just rejoined the team on Thanksgiving Day after beginning the year with the Islanders’ American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport, Conn., revealed his excitement following Monday’s win.

“We’ve all had it circled for a while,” Strome admitted when asked if he and his teammates were revved up for Wednesday night’s epic clash with the Metropolitan Division-leading arch rival Rangers in Downtown Brooklyn.

Strome, however, ceded that the Islanders knew they had “business” to take care of against Colorado before the Blueshirts, and their legion of loyal fans, hit the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

“We didn’t want to overlook [the Avalanche], it was important to take care of business tonight,” said Strome after the third-place Islanders moved within six points of the Rangers (17-6-2, 36 points) in the Metropolitan standings.

“We have to win these games, every point is huge in the standings and it’s so tight,” he added.

Strome, a 22-year-old center, has already contributed two goals and two assists during his three-game stint with the club. He added a key helper Monday night on Mikhail Grabovski’s second-period tally, which gave New York a 2-1 lead.

“When he went down [to Bridgeport], it was a confidence thing,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said of Strome. “I think his pace is getting closer to where it needs to be. His physicality is getting closer. There’s still room for improvement, but he’s been good since he’s been back.”

Good enough to be a part of Wednesday’s historic first encounter between the Islanders and Rangers here in Brooklyn, where the Barclays crowd will doubtlessly be up for grabs, just as it was in November 2012, when Brooklyn bested the East River rival Knicks, 96-89 in overtime, in the first-ever clash between the local NBA squads following the Nets’ relocation.

“I think this will probably be the loudest the building has been up until this point, for sure,” Capuano said. “It’ll be a great experience every time we play. But being in a new facility, first Islanders-Rangers game, fans from both sides will be into it. Both teams will go at it business as usual.”

Cal Clutterbuck, who scored what proved to be the game-winning goal 1:52 into the third period Monday against the Avalanche, wasn’t exactly sure which way the crowd would lean during the first of two Ranger visits to Barclays this season.

“It’s a close trip for the Rangers fans,” Clutterbuck said. “So we’ll see.”

Isle Have Another: Clutterbuck, and fellow linemates Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin, have been instrumental to the Islanders’ success this season. The trio was on the ice for two of New York’s three third-period goals against Colorado Monday night. “They do the right things,” Capuano said of his fourth line. “When you work hard, you get rewarded in life. The way that they’re playing right now, they deserve to get rewarded.” … Capuano also intimated that the Islanders are playing their best hockey of the season entering the Rangers’ contest, something they hope to sustain and improve upon as the campaign progresses. “I don’t think we hit our stride the way that we can play,” he said. “We’ve lost some games early I know we should have won. I think it all averages itself out.” … As of Tuesday afternoon, there were still tickets available to Wednesday’s Rangers-Islanders game at Barclays Center. … The Long Island Rail Road has added two additional eastbound trains to its weekday schedule to help Islanders fans from the team’s original home stay for an entire game and still catch a train back to the island. “Throughout the Islanders’ relocation to Barclays Center, we have made it a priority to ensure that the team’s fans on Long Island follow the team to Brooklyn,” said Barclays CEO Brett Yormark. “There is just no faster or more convenient way to get to and from an Islanders game than the LIRR,” noted LIRR President Patrick A. Nowakowski. … The Rangers enter Wednesday’s contest off Monday’s 4-3 win over Carolina, snapping a three-game losing streak for the Blueshirts.


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