Time: 7:00 pm EST
Location: Madison Square Garden-New York, NY
The Blueshirts are back at it tonight, as they play host to the Arizona Coyotes. The team is on a three-game win streak, dating back to February 20th against the Buffalo Sabres. Expect this contest to be closely watched by NHL scouts, especially those of the Coyotes as they are linked to the Rangers in trade rumors. This will be the second and last time the teams will meet for the season. The last time the Rangers and Coyotes met in Glendale, AZ, head coach Alain Vigneault earned his 500th career win with his team winning 5-1.
New York Rangers: 37-16-6 with 80 points, second place in the Metropolitan Division
The Rangers keep winning at the right time. For the month of February, the team has gone 9-1-2 entering tonight. They have only had one regulation loss, and that was against the Nashville Predators on February 7th. Since, then, the two losses occurred in overtime. Tonight, forward Rick Nash returns to the lineup after being scratched from Tuesday’s game with neck spasms. He remains two goals behind Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin’s 39 for the league’s leading goal-scorer. He is expected to take his normal spot on the line with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, as well as his normal duties on the power play and penalty kill units.
Arizona Coyotes: 20-34-7 with 47 points, sixth place in the Pacific Division
Arizona, not Phoenix (still takes some getting used to) are on the outside looking in, regarding the playoff race. In their last 10 games, the Coyotes are a bad 1-8-1, with a recent loss to the new York Islanders on Tuesday. Currently, they are on a seven-game losing streak with a 11-18-3 record on the road. On the positive side, the Coyotes have the fifth best Power Play Unit in the NHL with 21.2% success rate. Unfortunately, they are the league’s worst in giving up goals per game, averaging 3.30. the team’s leading scorer is defenseman Keith Yandle with 40 points (four goals, 36 assists). Their most offensive forward is Antoine Vermette with 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists). However, Yandle is a -31 and Vermette a -22 for the year. Yet, both players are rumored to be traded by the March 2nd deadline.
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Cam Talbot will start his second straight game for the Rangers. He has been called upon to keep the ship afloat as Henrik Lundqvist is still recovering from a throat injury. In his past nine starts, Talbot is 6-1-2, including a 1-0 shutout win over the Buffalo Sabres. One of those wins came against the Coyotes, where he made 34 saves en route to the above mentioned Rangers win.
Expect the Coyotes to go with goalie Mike Smith. This season has been a regression for the netminder. This season, he is 10-28 in 44 starts with 3.27 goals against average, and a .895 save percentage. Unfortunately, without a dependable backup goalie on the roster, it looks as though head coach Dave tippet will ride Smith out for the remainder of the season. Smith has given up three or more goals in four of his past five games started.
The Rangers list Henrik Lundqvist and Jesper Fast as out for tonight’s game. However, Fast could return in time for the Rangers trip to Philadelphia Saturday. For Lundqvist, he is progressing in his recovery and could be available early next month. Marc Staal may be a game time-decision as he was seen not feeling well earlier this week.