PREDICTION: Sharks 4, Ducks 2.
ISLANDERS AT RANGERS
The battle of New York has become a game of opposites as the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers host the last-place New York Islanders on Monday. This is the fourth of six meetings between the two division rivals this season. After dropping the first contest, the Rangers have won the last two. Each game in the series has been decided with a 4-2 final score. The Rangers have won four straight games and six of their last eight. The Islanders, on the other hand, have lost two straight and six of their last eight contests. The Islanders sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference - 11 points out of a playoff position. The postseason remains a distant memory for the Islanders, who have not qualified for the second season since 2007.
TV: 7 P.M. ET. MSG, MSG+2
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (11-16-6): New York fell 5-3 at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to the short Christmas break. Kyle Okposo, John Tavares and Frans Nielsen scored in the loss. For Okposo, he has scored six goals this season - with them all coming in the last 15 contests. Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves, but fell to 2-7-0 on the season. On the upside, Tavares has three goals and six points in three games against the Rangers this campaign. Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau each have five points, while captain Mark Streit has four. The Isles are 4-5-1 in their last 10 and 5-7-3 on the road this season.
ABOUT THE RANGERS (21-8-4): New York is coming off a 4-2 home win over the Philadelphia Flyers in a preview of the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic on Jan. 2. By virtue of playing one less game, the Rangers also claimed the Atlantic Division lead with the win. G Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves and Marian Gaborik collected his NHL-best 21st goal in the victory. The Blueshirts are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and 10-3-2 at Madison Square Garden. Brandon Dubinsky has four points in three games against the Islanders this season, while Gaborik has two goals.
1. Rangers backup G Martin Biron is 7-1-0 this season. He sports a 1.84 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.
2. The Islanders have been haunted by injuries this year. Currently, Brian Rolston, Steve Staios, Rick DiPietro, Al Montoya and David Ullstrom are out with concussions. Jay Pandolfo is also sidelined with a broken foot.
3. The Rangers are 16-1-1 when scoring first this season.
PREDICTION: Rangers 4, Islanders 2.
AVALANCHE AT WILD
There is perhaps no other team in the NHL that could have used the two-day holiday break more than the Minnesota Wild. The surprise team of the first two months as they shot into first place in the Western Conference, the Wild suffered six consecutive losses to enter the Christmas break. Minnesota wasn’t exactly scoring in bunches on its way up the standings, but lately things have gotten worse offensively. The Wild have scored one or no goals in five of their last six games and are have had the injury bug hit top players like Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi. Hoping to take advantage of Minnesota on Monday will be the visiting the Northwest Division rival Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche just finished up a 4-0-0 homestand, pushing over .500 for the first time since Nov. 10 with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, ALT (Colorado), FSNO (Minnesota)
ABOUT THE AVALANCHE (18-17-1): Colorado is unstoppable at home, winning eight straight at the Pepsi Center. The road has been a different story. The Avalanche have not won away from home ice since a 5-4 shootout victory at Chicago on Oct. 22 - the last in a string of six road wins to begin the season. Colorado had success on its last homestand behind G Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who started all four games while yielding two goals or less in each.
ABOUT THE WILD (20-11-5): Koivu is expected to be back in the lineup on Monday, allowing Minnesota to push back its centers and perhaps get something going on a power play that has been shut out in 10 chances over the last four games. Setoguchi is still on injured reserve and Guillaume Latendresse is out indefinitely with a concussion, putting more pressure on Dany Heatley to produce.
1. Giguere made 17 saves in a 1-0 loss to the Wild on Nov. 17 and owns a 9-10-2-3 record in 24 career starts against Minnesota.
2. The Wild have taken four straight and five of six in the series.
3. Heatley has not had a multi-point game since Nov. 8.
PREDICTION: Wild 2, Avalanche 1.