Time: 7:30 pm EST
Location: Madison Square Garden-New York, NY
After a victorious 3-1 win over the Sabres in wintery Buffalo Friday evening, the Rangers return home for the first of a three-game homestand. Tonight’s game will see them host the seventh place Columbus Blue Jackets in a Metropolitan Division rematch. This will be the third meeting between the two teams this season. They will meet one more time in April back at Madison Square Garden. The first two games were played in Columbus, with both teams splitting the previous meetings at one.
New York Rangers: 35-16-6, second place in the Metropolitan Division
The Rangers look to continue their winning ways tonight. Last week, the team took five out of six points to maintain pace in the tightly, contested Metropolitan Divison. One of those wins was a wild contest over the rival New York Islanders. Entering tonight, the Rangers are four points behind the first-place Islanders, who played last night. Tied with the Rangers are the Washington Capitals, who are playing the Philadelphia Flyers this afternoon. This will be an all-important game for the Blueshirts, who will be without goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who is still nursing a vascular injury. However, there have been reports that he was seen skating with full gear on, but not taking shots. In his place, backup goaltender Cam Talbot has been between the pipes and has been a benefactor of the team’s offensive explosion. Since February 10th, the Rangers have scored three or more goals, including a four-game stretch where they scored five goals.
Columbus Blue Jackets: 26-28-3, seventh place in the Metropolitan Division
The Blue Jackets are playing their second game of a back-to-back. The team played last night in Montreal where they loss 1-3 to the Canadiens. For the month of February, they are playing a little better than .500 hockey with wins over the St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins. Tonight’s game will be the last of their five-game road trip, which they have been on since February 14th.
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For the Rangers, Talbot is expected to start after a night off in Buffalo. For the season, he is 9-5-3 with 2.58 goals against average and a .912 save percentage. Since taking over for the injured Lundqvist, Talbot is going 6-1-2,. However, he has given up three or more goals in eight of those starts. Despite this, he has kept the Rangers in all his starts by making key saves and allowing his teammates to transition up ice. The Rangers will look for more of this play from Talbot as they continue their march up the standings.
On the other end, the Blue Jackets will try to survive without their number goaltender. Sergei Bobrovsky has been injured with a groin injury, since January. To help fill the void has been the play of their backup goaltender Curtis McElhinny. Despite losing last night in Montreal, he has filled the void left by Bobrovsky. This season he has gone 10-10-1 with 2.68 goals against average and a save percentage of .918. However, head coach may decide to give McElhinny the night off and give rookie Anton Forsberg a turn in net. He will be seeking his first NHL win.
The Rangers will be without the services of Lundqvist and his fellow Swede countryman Jesper Fast, who remains out of the lineup due to a sprained knee. The good news is that both appear to be on their way to rejoining the team, in the near future.
The Blue Jackets list Bobrovsky as day-to-day, with a possible return this week. Forward Nick Foligno may not be available with a lower body injury, and is listed day-to-day on their fox.com.