It’s been a long wait but the New York Rangers return to Madison Square Garden tonight as they host the Chicago Blackhawks in the first game back from Olympic break. The puck drops tonight at 7:00pm.
Before the break, the Rangers fixed themselves in second place of the Metropolitan division with a record of 32-24-3 for 67 points. Their final game, in Pittsburgh, was a huge 4-3 over time win. On Tuesday head coach Alain Vigneault, announced Cam Talbot would be in goal tonight. Talbot ha s 10-5-0 record this season with two shutouts. His save percentage is .935 and he is averaging 1.79 goals against. The Rangers take the ice tonight without leading scorer Mats Zuccarello, who’s six game eight point streak will end. With 15 goals for 43 points leaves a huge slot for J.T. Miller to fill after being called up to step into the vacancy. Miller’s two goals for four points in 25 games seems like a stretch. Hopefully line-mate Derek Brassard can keep his six game eight point streak going and help to elevate Miller at the same time. Brassard has moved up to fourth on the team in points with 11 goals and 23 assists. Brad Richards is second on the team in points with 42, primarily made up of his 27 assists. Hopefully an Olympic appearance has given Derek Stepan the boost he needs to increase his 10 goals for 35 points, he is only one point ahead of Brassard. Rick Nash only has 42 games out of 59 possible in the books this season. He leads the team with 18 goals and six game winners. Dan Girardi still leads the team in hits with 141 and blocks with 116. Ryan Callahan has moved into second with 127 hits, just slightly more than Chris Kreider’s 121 hits. Brian Boyle has quietly kept himself busy with 115 hits, 43 blocks, and four goals for 13 points. The biggest move up in hits totals are Brassard and Benoit Pouliot who each have 95 credited to them. Derek Dorsett was cleared to play but has not been announced as a player just yet. Daniel Carcillo could possibly remain in the line-up one more game.
The Chicago Blackhawks have fallen to second place in the Central Division with 84 points from a 35-11-14 record. They are tied in points with the St. Louis Blues who have two games in hand over the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks last played the Rangers in Chicago on 8 January and the Rangers left with a big win. The Blackhawks sent 10 players to the Olympic games in Sochi, Russia and only three of those 10 have practiced with the rest of the team since their return. A starting goalie has not been announced for tonight, though Corey Crawford seems the most likely. With a 22-9-10 record, Crawford has earned a .916 save percentage and averages 2.35 goals per game against him. Patrick Kane leads his team with 27 goals for 63 points. After a disappointing Olympics he will either feel pressure to succeed or reel in despair a bit longer. The rest of the team is loaded with high point scorers like Patrick Sharp, 28 goals for 58 points, Jonathan Toews, 19 goals for 55 points, Marian Hossa with 24 goals for 50 points, and that’s just their top four in points.When it comes to physical play, Brandon Bollig leads the team with 131 hits and 69 penalties in minutes. Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw are tied with 130 hits. Niklas Hjalmarsson is the sacrificial lamb of the team with 121 blocked shots. Seabrook has 97 blocks while Johnny Oduya is right on his heels with 96.
The key to another victory is for the Rangers to come out strong and keep the pressure on for all 60 minutes. Also, go “5 hole” on Crawford, it’s always been his weakness! Let’s go Rangers!