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Feb 4, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) knocks away the puck from Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) in front of New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

New York Rangers at Colorado Avalanche: The Good Guys

Tonight the New York Rangers are finishing up their western road trip as they face off against the Colorado Avalanche. The puck is scheduled to drop at 9pm ET.

Feb 4, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman (6) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Colorado Avalanche by New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers enter tonight’s game with a 40-30-4 record and 90 points. The Rangers are three points ahead of the Atlantic Division’s third place Philadelphia Flyers, who have two games in hand over the Rangers. The Flyers host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight, before the Rangers play.  Henrik Lundqvist should be in net tonight. His 31-23-4 record has boosted the team this season and his 2.41 goals against average paired with his .919 save percentage have really made life difficult on his opponents down this back stretch in the season. He also has five shut outs this season; only Tuukka Rask and Jonathan Quick have more with seven and six respectively. Mats Zuccarello has taken sole ownership of the points lead on the team with 17 goals for 54 points and four points in the last two games. Zuccarello is also the highest scoring Norwegian born player in the NHL for a single season. Being reunited with his old line, has increased his productivity and that of line-mate Benoit Pouliot. A three game point streak for Pouliot is a boost he needed. His 13 goals for 32 points this season have helped this third line, with Derick Brassard, to be the most successful of the team. Brassard adds 18 goals for 43 points this season with two points in his last two games. Derek Stepan‘s 15 goals for 53 points have him right behind Zuccarello and keeping the pressure apparent.

With a new defensive partner, Dan Girardi must step up tonight. He plays a solid, often

underrated, game with 186 hits and 167 blocked shots this season. Brian Boyle‘s 143 hits make him the next in line for his physical game, and he will need to bring that  with him tonight. The third line has a total of 356 hits, it’s the most physical line on the team, as well as being the most offensive. When it comes to blocking shots, there isn’t anyone close to filling Ryan McDonagh‘s skates. Lundqvist will see more shots than he has in recent games but he has the ability to stand tall in his crease. John Moore did practice with the team today and is expected to be partnered with Girardi in McDonagh’s absence. McDonagh is listed as day-to-day at this point and isn’t expected to be off the ice long.

The Rangers have to capitalize on their fortune of not facing Alex Tanguay, PA Parenteau, and Matt Duchene. Patrick Roy and his team have built a strong co-existence this season and there is a huge bond of trust. The Rangers have to get the Avalanche away from their comfort zone and get them committing penalties. If the Rangers play a clean game they can get the two points they need to maintain their hold on second place.

Tags: Avalanche Dani Girardi Henrik Lundqvist Mats Zuccarello New York Rangers Ryan McDonagh

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