To call this an interesting road trip would be an understatement. We’ve seen a little bit of everything from the New York Rangers and the fourth and final game of the trip should bring more of the same.
The trip started off on a high note with a convincing 4-1 win in Winnipeg. Then, their backup goalie got shelled and their top goalie got chased. The team forgot how to play defense and remained relatively clueless when it comes to scoring at even strength. After the last loss, a 6-2 spanking by the St. Louis Blues, they were called out by their coach for being “soft.”
You could see this coming. The Rangers level of urgency is not anywhere near the level for Minnesota, St. Louis and tonight’s opponent, the Dallas Stars. All of these teams are in a dogfight to make the playoffs and they are playing for their season. For the Blueshirts, it seems to be a question of first round seeding in the playoffs.
Gallant spoke at about that, saying, “When you’re desperate and you’re trying to win games, Dallas is right on that bubble right now and they’re playing desperate hockey. I’d like to see our team play a little bit more like that tonight.”
That said, the Rangers have dropped two points behind the Penguins and the Capitals have closed within three points. The Rangers have a game in hand on Pittsburgh and two on Washington, but it is getting a little too close for comfort.
Gallant’s message, Lindgren sitting?
For Coach Gerard Gallant, the message was clear. “We gotta play better. Play harder, that’s all. We’ve got to compete more for pucks and win those one on one battles a little more.”
There may be some changes in the Blueshirts lineup with the most dramatic being a night off for Ryan Lindgren who was minus four against the Blues, taking two early penalties.
Dallas is hot
Dallas has been hot, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. They are in fifth place in the Central Division and are in the final wild card spot in the West. Anaheim, Edmonton and Vancouver are nipping at their heels, though the Stars have games in hand on all of them.
Their hottest player is winger Jason Robertson who was named #1 player of the week for scoring seven goals in three games, including two hat tricks. He has 29 goals and 54 points in 48 games. He was a second round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (#39 overall), taken after the Rangers picked Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil. It was a savvy pick by the Stars as he has the best numbers of any player picked outside of the top six that year.
Their leading scorer is 37-year-old Joe Pavelski who just signed a one-year contract extension for $5.5 million. He had been mentioned as potential trade bait if the Stars dropped out of the playoff race. Not any more.
Statistically, the Stars are in the middle of the pack, though their power play is 10th best in the NHL. They don’t take a lot of penalties, seventh fewest in the NHL.
Rangers-Stars prior meeting
These two teams met at Madison Square Garden on October 14 in the Rangers home opener and the Stars’ first game of the season. Dallas was 3-2 in overtime. Igor Shesterkin was in net for the Blueshirts, facing Anton Khudobin who had come in in relief of starter Braden Holtby. The Rangers came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game on two second period goals.
Projected starting lineups
Gallant hinted at some lineup changes. Greg McKegg joined the team in Dallas and will probably get back into the lineup. The belief is that Ryan Lindgren, who had a very tough outing in St. Louis, will sit and be replaced by Libor Hajek. We’ll see at game time.
NEW YORK RANGERS
20 Kreider– 93 Zibanejad –13 Lafrenière
10 Panarin– 16 Strome – 29 Hunt
26 Gettinger – 72 Chytil – 15 Gauthier
21 Goodrow – 76 Brodzinski- 75 Reaves
25 Hajek – 23 Fox
79 Miller – 8 Trouba
12 Nemeth – 45 Schneider
21 Jason Robertson – 24 Roope Hintz – 16 Joe Pavelski
14 Jamie Benn – 91 Tyler Seguin – 34 Denis Gurianov
18 Michael Raffl – 12 Radek Faksa – 11 Luke Glendening
25 Joel Kiviranta – 40 Jacob Peterson – 47 Alexander Radulov
23 Esa Lindell – 3 John Klingberg
20 Ryan Suter– 2 Jani Hakanpää
55 Thomas Harley – 44 Joel Hanley
29 Jake Oettinger
31 Adam Scheel
The Stars are missing some regulars with Miro Heiskanen out with mono and Braden Holtby nursing a lower body injury. 23-year old Jake Oettinger, who will start in goal for the Stars, his 10th start in the last 11 games. He has played very well with a 19-7-1 record and a a 2.30 goals against average and .922 save percentage. This will be the first time he faces the Rangers. It will be Tyler Seguin’s 800th career game.
How to watch and the live conversation
The game starts at 8pm EST and will be televised on the MSG Network. Nationally, the live stream will be on ESPN+. The radiocast will be on ESPN 98.7 FM.
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