If New York hockey fans weren't that familiar with Jarome Iginla since he's played his whole career in the Western Conference with Calgary, they're about to get to know him pretty well.
The Rangers and Islanders will face Pittsburgh's newest star a combined three times in the next eight days after the Penguins stunned the hockey universe with its acquisition of the six-time All-Star on Wednesday. Pittsburgh bolstered what is already the Eastern Conference's best team with the addition of the 35-year-old, who has nine goals and 13 assists this year.
The Islanders will get the first crack at Iginla when they travel to Pittsburgh on Saturday, while the Rangers will have a home-and-home series with the Penguins next week with Pittsburgh heading to Madison Square Garden on April 3, and the Rangers visiting Pittsburgh on April 5. Those will be the final times the New York squads each face Pittsburgh during the regular season.
The Rangers and Islanders already have had a rough time defeating Pittsburgh this year, with the teams a combined 1-6 against the Penguins, and this move looks to make it that much tougher. Iginla should be a perfect complement for Pittsburgh studs Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.
The Islanders are 1-3 on the year against Pittsburgh, losing the last three and giving up a combined 14 goals in those losses. The Rangers have been even worse as they are 0-3 against Pittsburgh and have been outscored 12-3 in those games, being blanked 3-0 in each of the last two games. Pittsburgh has won seven straight against the Rangers.
Both the Rangers and the Islanders are in the hunt for the playoffs and having to see this revamped Pittsburgh team won't help their causes. Entering Thursday's games, the Rangers had the eighth and final spot in the playoffs, but the Islanders were right on their heels, just two points behind. The teams need every point they can get as they've both struggled to play consistent hockey this year.
This trade also gives the squads incentive to avoid finishing eighth in the conference and potentially having to see the Penguins in a quarterfinal matchup. While second-place Montreal, and possibly Boston, would be tough draws as the No. 2 seed, it's fair to say a team would rather see those squads than Pittsburgh. The Penguins are currently on a 13-game win streak entering Thursday's game vs. Winnipeg.
If there's any bright side on this deal for the New York squads, it may be the timing of the matchups. It may be better to face Pittsburgh now, as they are incorporating Iginla into their lines, then in a few weeks when he's had time to get adjusted to his new team and his line mates. The Rangers and Islanders can only hope it takes some acclimation time and they can take advantage.