The New York Rangers take on one of the hottest teams in the NHL and the hottest goalie in the league in a key Metropolitan Division clash at Madison Square Garden.
John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets have surprised the entire hockey world with their outstanding play. Despite an onslaught of injuries and the loss of a virtual all-star team to free agency, the Blue Jackets are in the middle of the playoff pack. The have left the New York Rangers in their wake and this is really a must-win game for the Blueshirts.
With their convincing 5-0 win over the New Jersey Devils last night, the Blue Jackets leapfrogged into t he first wildcard spot in the East, ahead of Philadelphia. Not only that, they have 58 points, only two behind the third place New York Islanders and one point more than the Florida Panthers, in third place in the Atlantic Division.
The Rangers are on a streak of their own, undefeated in five straight at Madison Square Garden. Artemi Panarin has been red hot at home and they will need him to be at his best if they are to beat his former team from Columbus.
Igor Shesterkin will get the start, another stern test for the rookie netminder. He hasn’t played since back-to-back wins over nine days ago. The Rangers will field the same lineup that took two wins over the New York Islanders last week except for Phil Di Giuseppe who will replace Micheal Haley on the fourth line.
Despite the wins, Columbus has expressed some concern over their performance. In the last two games the Blue Jackets have allowed 142 shot attempts while taking only 79 themselves.
The Blue Jackets should get a boost from a return to the lineup by Oliver Bjorkstrand from the injury list today. He’s been out since before Christmas with a rib injury. He was one of the team’s top scorers when he went out, with 12 goals and 23 points in 36 games.
New York Rangers
10 Panarin – 16 Strome – 17 Fast
20 Kreider –93 Zibanejad – 89 Buchnevich
21 Howden – 72 Chytil – 24 Kakko
33 Di Giuseppe – 14 McKegg – 42 Smith
76 Skjei – 8 Trouba
18 Staal – 77 DeAngelo
55 Lindgren – 23 Fox
Columbus Blue Jackets
14 Gustav Nyquist – 18 Pierre-Luc Dubois – 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
24 Nathan Gerbe – 10 Alex Wennberg – 13 Cam Atkinson
50 Eric Robinson – 20 Riley Nash – 71 Nick Foligno
15 Jakob Lilja – 38 Boone Jenner – 11 Kevin Stenlund
90 Elvis Merzlikins
80 Matiss Kivlenieks
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The game will be televised on the MSG Network and radio will be on ESPN 98.7 FM.