Tonight the New York Rangers host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden.
The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:00pm.
The Rangers are on a streak! For the first time this season the Rangers have been able to string wins together and keep a good run going. This is the team we know and love. The team currently stands tied in points with the Washington Capitals for second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals have played two fewer games than the Rangers and have two fewer wins, while the Rangers have registered fewer overtime and shoot out games. Their 24-20-3 record has given the Rangers 51 points and a regulation win tonight, coupled with a Capitals loss tonight, would give the Rangers sole ownership of second place.
Henrik Lundqvist was confirmed as tonight’s starter after his stellar, nearly “lights out”, performance against the Flyers two nights ago. Lundqvist is now 15-16-3on the season with 2.68 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Chris Kredier is the new Goals leader on the team with 12 in only 40 games. His 27 points now have Kreider tied with Derek Stepan for third in overall points on the team. Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello are still neck and neck for the points lead. Each has 11 goals with Zuccarello one game and one point behind Richards’ 34 points in 47 games. Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin are also holding strong with 11 goals for 20 and 18 points respectively. Ryan McDonagh is slowly and quietly edging up the list with 7 goals for 26 points while Derrick Brassard has added 8 goals for 25 points. The teams’ plus/minus statistic has also started to look a little better. Kreider has pushed up to a +11 while Dan Carcillo joins Hagelin as the teams’ only other positive skaters with +1 each. Nash, Benoit Pouliot, and John Moore have moved up to the neutral 0 position. As he has all season, Dan Girardi remains at the top of the hits list with 112 followed closest by Kreider with 103. The biggest hitter on the team thus far though is Carcillo, who has 12 hits in his three games as a Ranger. When it comes to hits, Carcillo is not one to make them light. Those hits have propelled the rest of the team to pick up their game as well. Girardi also continues to lead the team in blocks with 81. McDonagh is again close behind with 75 blocks, though Del Zotto has seven blocks in his last two games. Overall, the team is forming a cohesion and a trust with one another. Lundqvist has moved back into his goal for the goal line positioning which has made him so famous and he is again showing his success. Coach Alain Vigneault has started to make tweaks in his system to accommodate the players as evidenced by switching sides with Del Zotto. Things seem to finally be coming together.
The Lightning are currently 27-51-4 with 58 points and second in the Atlantic Division; behind Boston. Tonight is the second half of a back to back for the Lightning and they are looking to bounce back from a loss to the Blue Jackets last night. Tonight will be the fourth game in six days for the Lightning; who started last night’s game against the Blue Jackets committing far too many sloppy penalties. In the continued absence of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis has led his team with 20 goals and 23 assists for 43 points. The only players close to those numbers on the team are Valtteri Filppula with 18 goals for 36 points and Matthew Carle with 22 assists for 23 points. Surprisingly, Stamkos maintains third on the team in goals scored with 14; even though he has missed 29 games before tonight. Look for extremely physical play from Radko Gudas who leads the team with 155 hits and 94 penalties in minutes. Eric Brewer and Ondrej Palat have 82 and 76 hits respectively. Carle and Gudas are also the leading shot blockers for the Lightning with 95 and 76 respectively. Recent standout has been Victor Hedman who has registered seven points in his last 10 games. Hedman was also recently left off the Team Sweden roster; much to the surprise of many. Ben Bishop is set to make his return in net tonight. Last night he dressed as back-up to Anders Lindback, knowing he would start tonight. Bishop left the game on January 5th against the Edmonton Oilers early after spraining his right wrist.
It will not be surprising to see Carcillo and Gudas drop mitts tonight. If the Rangers want to win this game they need to play as hard as they have recently and stay out of the sin bin. The Lightning have a dangerous power play. The Rangers’ best bet, is to hope they can get the Lightning to commit the penalties and convert on the power play opportunities. The Rangers also need to jump out to an early lead, just as they did against the Flyers. The previous game against the Lighning was on December 29, 2013 and ended in a 4-3 victory for the Rangers. This was also the beginning the Rangers’ turnaround.