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Islanders, Rangers Start Season With Battle of New York

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) during an NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 17, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz.

The New York Islanders and New York Rangers enter an unprecedented 2021 NHL campaign with playoff aspirations and roster shakeups. The Rangers’ young, exciting talent will take on the steady Islanders eight times this season – starting with the first two games of the year.

New York Islanders vs New York Rangers
  • Date/Time: January 14, 7 p.m. ET
  • Arena: Madison Square Garden
  • TV Coverage: NHL
  • Opening Odds: Islanders/Rangers -111 | O/U 5.5 (Line History)
  • Islanders vs Rangers Matchup Report

Opening Odds Analysis

The game opened with EVEN odds for both teams at -111 but the line has moved in favor of the Islanders at most sportsbooks and has settled in the -105 to -115 range. The total is either 5.5 or 6 across the board with the OVER as the favorite in the -115 to -135 range.

Islanders News & Notes

It is the usual question for the New York Islanders heading into the 2021 season: Where will the goals come from? The Islanders advanced to the Eastern Conference final last season despite being one of the lowest-scoring teams in hockey. Only four teams in the East scored fewer goals last season than the Isles.

Locking up star center Mathew Barzal to a three-year contract after questions about his future will help in the scoring department. Barzal has led the team in scoring in each of his three seasons.

The Islanders win with a stingy defensive structure and goaltending – which may be the most intriguing part of their season. Veteran Semyon Varlamov will begin the year as the starter, but it may be only a matter of time before top prospect Ilya Sorokin takes on a bigger role. Sorokin was drafted almost seven years ago and made his long-awaited jump to the NHL in time for the playoffs last year.

Rangers News & Notes

The New York Rangers had a disappointing season in 2019-20, finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference and getting swept by Carolina in the qualifying round of the playoffs. However, expectations are high for a team loaded with young talent and handing the reins over to a new goaltender.

Henrik Lundqvist is out after 15 seasons between the pipes, giving way to 25-year-old Igor Shesterkin. Shesterkin went 10-2 last season with a .932 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against average and was dominant in his time in the KHL and AHL in prior seasons.

Up front, the NHL Draft Lottery handed the Rangers the first overall pick and winger Alexis Lafreniere. Lafreniere had 112 points in 57 games in the QMJHL last season and should step into a prominent role on a team full of star forwards. Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and 2019 No. 2 selection Kaapo Kakko headline the group.

Betting Pick: OVER 6

Games can be a bit sloppy early in the season as teams find their groove. So, we lean toward the OVER with the Rangers breaking in a new goalie at one end of the ice and pushing the pace with dynamic talent at the other.

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Shark Bites
  • The Islanders are 1-4 in their last 5 games vs the Rangers.
  • The Islanders are 12-4 in their last 16 road games vs the Rangers.
  • The UNDER is 4-1 in the Rangers’ last 5 games as an underdog.