Tonight the New York Rangers host the Carolina Hurricanes in another Staal family reunion. The puck is set to drop at 7:00pm ET from inside the lovely Madison Square Garden.
Tonight the Rangers take the ice with a feeling of relief. Last night the New Jersey Devils lost to the Calgary Flames,
making it mathematically impossible for the Rangers to be knocked out of the post season. The Rangers have a 43-31-5 record for 91 points. They remain two points ahead of the third place Philadelphia Flyers who now have only one game in hand over the Rangers. After some discussion over the starting goalie choice, Henrik Lundqvist will start in net tonight. Having secured a post season berth, many thought Cam Talbot would play to give Lundqvist a little rest. With a 31-24-5 record and five shut outs, Lundqvist leads his team. He has a .919 save percentage and a 2.41 goals against average. Mats Zuccarello remains the team leader in points with 19 goals for 57 points and he skates as a +11; only Chris Kreider‘s +14 is higher. Zuccarello also has four goals for seven points in his last four games. Derek Stepan seems to be cooling off at this point, his 16 goals for 54 points are slowly falling short of Zuccarello. Brad Richards continues to play stale after leading the team for so long he is third in points with 18 goals for 49 points. Derick Brassard has three points in the last four games for a total of 18 goals for 44 points. While Benoit Pouliot has 13 goals for 34 points and has registered a point in each of his last five games. Since returning from his concussion, John Moore has played some solid minutes with Dan Girardi on the top defensive pairing, filling in for the injured Ryan McDonagh, and has seen some power play time as well. Despite registering only four goals for 15 points, J Moore skates at a +7 and has two points in two games since his return.
Though being listed as day-to-day, Ryan McDonagh remains out of the line up for tonight’s contest. Kreider skated with the team today wearing only one glove and is also out for tonight. Jesper Fast skated with the team in practice yesterday and coach Alain Vigneault said he would wait until today to make his decision regarding the line-up. Fast skated on the second line with Richards and, fellow Swede, Carl Hagelin.
The Hurricanes are no longer in the race for the playoffs, though we know the Staal brothers always play hard. In order to win the Rangers have to play a clean game and match the physicality of the Hurricanes. As always, they have to avoid unnecessary penalties and they need to use every chance they can to increase their production on the power play.