Pre-Game: Rangers Seek Fifth Straight Win In Tampa

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(14-5-3, 31pts)            (11-11-2, 24pts)

“It’s fine, and I’ll be ready to rock. I skated around pretty good this morning so I don’t think there’s anything I can’t do.”

- Derek Stepan via Blueshirts United

OPPONENT BLOG: Bolts By The Bay

The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning meet for the first time this season as the Blueshirts look to seal a fifth consecutive victory tonight.

The Rangers have generally had problems with the Bolts of late, particularly their speed and powerplay. The Bolts have had a mixed season so far while the Rangers have continued to roll through two respective win streaks over the past 13 games or so.

Thursday’s 5-3 win in Carolina was the Rangers 11th victory in those last 13 games, while Tampa Bay enters the contest on a two-game losing skid after defeats in Detroit and Minnesota. The Bolts are 3-6 in their last nine.

Join me after the jump for the full pre-game…

PROJECTED LINES:

Artem Anisimov – Derek Stepan – Marian Gaborik
Ruslan Fedotenko – Brad Richards – Ryan Callahan
Carl Hagelin – Brian Boyle – John Mitchell
Sean Avery – Brandon Dubinsky – Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto – Michael Sauer
Jeff Woywitka – Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist

KEYS TO THE GAME:

SPEED – The Rangers have trouble with the Bolts speed, that’s a fact, and they’ve more often than not had problems shutting down the trio of Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier too. This is exactly the kind of game where a player like Carl Hagelin could prove vital, and one where the Rangers forecheck may play a big part in the outcome. It’s a game that’ll undoubtedly test the Blueshirts’ impressive young defense and one that’ll require all three pairs to bring their a-game as Girardi and McDonagh continue to log the best part of 30 minutes per night.

SPECIAL TEAMS – That Bolts powerplay’s pretty good, huh? Yeah, the Rangers may want to stay out of the box tonight because as inconsistent as this Tampa team has been, their powerplay remains a huge weapon given the chance. The Rangers powerplay has improved of late too and, even though their movement hasn’t been stellar for the most part, they’ve found ways to put the puck in the net on the man-advantage.

EXPOSE THEIR D – Matt Gilroy and Marc-Andre Bergeron may be a respective +7 and +4 this season, but they’re still Matt Gilroy and Marc-Andre Bergeron. Two soft, bottom-pairing defenseman that the Rangers forecheck needs to expose at even strength. Hit them, hit them, hit them.

SCORING DEPTH – Both the Rangers and Bolts have scored 65 goals this season, however, the Bolts have given up a whopping 76, that’s 27 more than the Rangers. With the Blueshirts getting production from all four lines at the moment, that disparity in scoring could be important if the Rangers can shut down the likes of Stamkos and St. Louis.

Tags: Marc-Andre Bergeron Martin St. Louis Matt Gilroy New York Rangers Pre-game Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning

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