The New York Rangers have not lost three games in a row in regulation this season and that is a streak they will try to avoid today against the Seattle Kraken. Winners of four of their last six, the Kraken are not a pushover.
The Rangers have lost two games in a row twice this season. The only teams with fewer are Boston, Washington and Tampa. Minnesota and Nashville have had more two-game losing streaks than the Rangers and 26 other NHL teams have had losing streaks longer than two games. That’s a good record.
The Rangers are still banged up with Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil out with an assortment of injuries and Patrik Nemeth out for personal reasons. They are limping into their February break that starts after their game Tuesday against the Panthers.
One thing is for certain. The Rangers need to play better than they did the last time they played Seattle. The Rangers beat them 3-1 on Halloween, but it took a late goal from Adam Fox to break a 1-1 tie. Igor Shesterkin was in net for New York and made 31 saves. One issue for the Blueshirts is that they were able to total 17 shots on goal in the game. In fact, the Kraken outplayed the Rangers with 51 shot attempts to the Rangers’ 35 and twice the number of scoring chances (23-12). The Rangers were undisciplined, taking two bench minors for too many men on the ice and their two power plays were cut short when they took penalties. Igor Shesterkin stole that one for the Blueshirts.
Although Seattle has played well lately, they had preceded that with a nine game losing streak. They are playing like a traditional expansion team. They are allowing 3.53 goals per game, fourth most in the NHL while they are 25th overall on offense, scoring 2.63 goals per game. They average 28 shots on goal per game, second fewest in the league, but are good at shot suppression, allowing only 28.6 shots per game, third best in the NHL.
Philipp Grubauer is expected to be in net for Seattle and he has started 31 of the team’s 43 games. After finishing third in the Vezina Trophy voting last season, he doesn’t have those kind of numbers this year with a 3.20 goals against average and a .885 save percentage, the worst numbers of his career.
What’s the recipe for the Rangers to win this game and end their losing streak? They need to play a full 60 minutes. They need to get off to a face start. They need to score early and then hold the lead. They need to take a lot of shots because the Kraken are in the top 10 when it comes to limiting rush chances, cycle chances, forecheck chances and rebound chances.
Philipp Grubauer has credited the Kraken defense with blocking more shots and also letting him see incoming shots as the reason for their improved play. That seems like a simple strategy, but lately it has been working.
Both teams will be rested with the Kraken’s game against the Islanders on Saturday postponed due to the snowstorm. No doubt the Rangers are still smarting from their Friday night loss to the Wild, especially after the controversial disallowed goal with only one second left in the contest.
The lineup is expected to be the same that played against the Wild. That means a second straight start for Zac Jones and Jonny Brodzinski. Of course, nothing is set until they take the ice for warm ups.
Players to watch for the Rangers include Jacob Trouba who has to step up as their top blueliner as well as Braden Schneider who will have a much bigger role on the second pair with Ryan Lindgren along with Zac Jones who is fighting to stay in the lineup.
As far as the Kraken, defenseman Mark Giordano (#5) has been the subject of some trade rumors with the Rangers mentioned as a possible suitor. Calle Jarnkrok (#19) will be a UFA after this season and some have mentioned him as a possible Ranger target. He is a natural center who has been playing wing on the top Seattle line. He’s a consistent 13-16 goal scorer who is decent on faceoffs.
NEW YORK RANGERS
13 Lafrenière– 93 Zibanejad –20 Kreider
10 Panarin– 16 Strome – 21 Goodrow
76 Brodzinski – 14 McKegg – 15 Gauthier
29 Hunt- 17 Rooney – 75 Reaves
79 Miller – 8 Trouba
55 Lindgren – 45 Schneider
25 Hajek – 6 Jones
22 Mason Appleton – 37 Yanni Gourde – 19 Calle Jarnkrok
90 Marcus Johansson – 16 Jared McCann -7 Jordan Eberle
9 Ryan Donato -21 Alex Wennberg – 72 Joonas Donskoi
43 Colin Blackwell -15 Riley Sheahan – 25 Karson Kuhlman
5 Mark Giordano – 6 Adam Larsson
29 Vince Dunn – 3 Will Borgen
4 Haydn Fleury – 55 Jeremy Lauzon
31 Philipp Grubauer
60 Chris Driedger
Five players in the Kraken lineup did not play in the prior game against the Rangers. That includes former Ranger Colin Blackwell who is playing the way he did for the Blueshirts. He has four goals and seven points in 20 games and has missed a number of games with assorted injuries.
How to watch and the live conversation
Game time is 1pm and locally it will be televised on the MSG Network. Nationally, the game will be available on the NHL Network. The radiocast will be on ESPN 98.7 FM.
Many thanks to the NHL schedule makers for scheduling this game at the right time so sports fans can watch both of the NFL Conference Championship games as well as our favorite hockey team.
Blue Line Station’s live conversation is up and running and you can share our thoughts with your fellow Ranger fans in the comments section below. The Blueshirts have provided a lot of highs and lows recently and the live thread has been entertaining.
Are the Rangers overachievers? Can they win without Adam Fox in the lineup? Will they get more than 20 shots in this game against the Kraken? There’s a lot to talk about.