- New York Rangers are a 1.5-goal home favorite against the New York Islanders Thursday (7 pm, EST) in the season opener for both teams
- Alexis Lafreniere, the No. 1 pick of the 2020 NHL draft, will make his debut for the Rangers
- See the game odds, spread, total, plus a preview below
The New York Rangers, three years into a rebuilding plan, launch their 2020-21 season with a promising, young team that is favored by 1.5 goals at home against the New York Islanders in the opener for both teams.
The Rangers were 4-2 against the Islanders last season, including 2-1 at Madison Square Garden.
Islanders vs Rangers Odds
|New York Islanders||-107||+1.5 (-295)||O 6 (-104)|
|New York Rangers||-108||-1.5 (-110)||U 6 (-118)|
Odds taken Jan. 13 from DraftKings
The Islanders (35-23-10) finished ahead of the Rangers (37-28-5) in 2019-20 and came within two wins of reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Eventual champion Tampa Bay downed the Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference Final.
But coming into this season, both the Islanders and Rangers are both listed with +3000 odds to win the Stanley Cup.
Rangers Continue to Add Young Talent
Coach David Quinn’s Rangers will add another layer to their rebuilding efforts when 2020 first-round pick Alexis Lafreniere and 2018 first-rounder K’Andre Miller play their first NHL games.
If he scores, he will be the first Ranger to score on his debut since Lias Andersson and the youngest since 1979
(data through hockey-reference) pic.twitter.com/LO8Oryeb4Q
— Stat Boy Steven 🇳🇱🇦🇹 (@StatBoy_Steven) January 13, 2021
Left wing Lafreniere, chosen No. 1 overall, will start on the third line, but it’s expected that at some point, maybe early in the season, could end up on the top line. The 6-foot-5 Miller is coming straight out of the University of Wisconsin. He hasn’t played in the American League. But Quinn is going to use him on the top pairing with Jacob Trouba.
Kaapo Kakko, the Rangers 2019 first-rounder, will also get an expanded role this season, playing on a line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. Panarin is the Rangers’ top offensive performer, registering 95 points last season.
Islanders Look to Build on Last Season
Coach Barry Trotz’s Islanders don’t lack for confidence. Last season’s Islanders’ playoff run showed that Trotz’s stingy defensive style is helping the Islanders become a legitimate contender.
The Islanders are buying into the idea that defense is still king in the NHL. General manager Lou Lamoriello changed his defensive corps and not necessarily for the better. Salary cap issues forced him to trade defenseman Devon Toews, who gave the team energy and puck-moving ability. Johnny Boychuk retired because of an eye injury.
#Isles Scott Mayfield on Ilya Sorokin: "He's just fast, he can move post to post real fast… Sometimes it seems like he's out of it but then he'd reach back and catch one. Just the way he can move…"
— Mollie Walker (@MollieeWalkerr) January 8, 2021
Those losses opened the door for 2018 first-rounder Noah Dobson to play regularly on the blue line. He’s a 6-foot-4 well-rounded defenseman who played 34 games this season.
Russian goalie Ilya Sorokin is another major addition. He was a star in the Kontinental Hockey League. Last season, Sorokin, 25, was 26-10-3 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .935 save percentage for CSKA Moscow. Sorokin posted nine shutouts in 40 games. As a result, he is expected to play at least half of the Islanders games this season, although Semyon Varlamov will start opener
Covid Hits a Ranger
Rangers No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad admitted this week that he tested positive for COVID. He’s officially listed as questionable for Thursday’s opener, although the Rangers seem more optimistic about the possibility he will play.
Meanwhile, Islanders forward Michael Dal Colle is heading to the injured reserve, opening up a place for Oliver Wahlstrom or Kiefer Bellows.
Talking to DQ now and he says Mika Zibanejad "looks like he's ready to go," but he has to talk to the trainers and make a final decision.
Also, he says Igor Shesterkin is in net tomorrow night. #NYR
— Vince Z. Mercogliano (@vzmercogliano) January 13, 2021
Rivalry Makes This A Tough Call
The Islanders are a more polished team, and much better defensively. The Rangers have more talented players, although some of their skilled players are lacking in experience. The Islanders-Rangers rivalry brings out the best in both teams. But Igor Shestyorkin (10-2-0, 2.52, .932) is starting for the Rangers in net. Shestyorkin vs Varlamov is advantage Rangers.
Pick: Rangers Moneyline (-118)
Let's have fun and keep it civil.