New York Rangers vs Columbus Blue Jackets
The puck drops at 7:00 pm est
Tonight is the fifth consecutive start for Henrik Lundqvist in goal. We also see the return of Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot to the line-up. Arron Asham will remain with the team to keep the roster complete after the injuries of Ryan Callahan and Derick Brassard against Nashville. Callahan is again out of the line-up, the third time this season, for 4-6 weeks this time. Brassard is listed as day to day with an injury to his posterior. Funny though it is, bruised tailbones hurt and don’t heal very fast. Also out of the line-up tonight is Justin Falk to make room for Dylan McIlrath. This is the moment McIlrath has “been waiting for since the draft” as he was quoted this morning after the morning skate. This choice attracts attention to the Michael Del Zotto situation. Vigneault made it clear early on he was not very comfortable using Del Zotto, as was seen with the number of healthy scratches Del Zotto has already had this season; despite posting two goals for six points in his 24 games. With key players out, it is hard to predict the “line-up roulette” that may happen tonight. The Rangers enter tonight’s affair 15-16-1 (31 points) and fourth in the Metropolitan Division; behind Pittsburgh, Washington, and now Carolina. This game is very important to get the team back on track and change the momentum of their recent backwards slide. Brad Richards now leads the team in goals, assists, and points with 9-15-24 respectively. Leading the team in hits is Dan Girardi with 79 and blocks with 55; well ahead of Ryan McDonagh who has 36 hits and 43 blocks. With roster shake ups and additions tonight could be the spark the Rangers need to get going, maybe there will be just enough conflict of historical events to really get the team going; at this point, anything is worth trying.
Columbus has a string of injuries to contend with as well. Sergei Bobrovski, Jared Boll, Marian Gaborik, Oliver Gabriel, and Nathan Horton are all on Injured Reserve while James Wisniewski was listed as day to day on 7 December. The Blue Jackets have won their last two games but are 2-2 in the last four games. On the season the Blue Jackets are 13-15-3 (29 points) for 6th in the Metropolitan Division. As has already been posted on Twitter, Brandon Dubinsky is ready to come back to Madison Square Garden “with bells on”. With an axe to grind, Dubinsky is a player who will be looking to make a difference tonight. He currently has six goals for 20 points in 25 games, behind teammate Ryan Johansen; who has 10 goals for 24 points in 31 games. Nick Foligno is another player to keep an eye on tonight, with nine goals for 17 points in 25 games. Fedor Tyutin leads the healthy defensemen with 2 goals for 10 points in 28 games. You may remember, in the last meeting of these teams, the hit on Pyatt from Tyutin which left Pyatt out of the Rangers’ lineup with a concussion until recently. Jack Skille, Ryan Murray, Corey Tropp, and Jared Boll are all players who are due to have their moment of “puck luck” for the Jackets; let’s hope it isn’t tonight. The Blue Jackets, much like the Rangers, have talent spread out amongst players who could strike at any moment. Once again, an opponent will be using a backup goalie against the Rangers. Curtis McElhinney has 11 games to his credit this season with 2.24 goals against average and .926 save percentage.
The Twitter accounts for both teams have already gotten sassy this morning. The last meeting between these teams favored the Rangers, Dubinsky made it quite clear then that he wanted to make New York regret trading him for a “new toy”, in reference to Rick Nash. From the opposite side, Nash has spoken out about the trade saying it was smooth but got “messy” towards the end. Nash was out with a concussion when last these teams met and this will be his first night facing his former team since requesting a trade. Perhaps Nash is the one with the axe to grind tonight.