The New York Rangers have played a number of so-called statement games. The latest were the two wins over the Lightning and Hurricanes this past weekend. Add tonight’s tilt with the Penguins to the list, but this one has just a bit more significance.
Pittsburgh has opened up a three point lead over the Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division though the Blueshirts have a game in hand. This game is a crucial match as the two teams fight for second place and home ice advantage in the first round. The two teams meet three times in the next 14 days and the club that comes out ahead in that series will go a long way towards clinching the better position in the standings.
Let’s not forget that first place is also up for grabs. The Hurricanes are in first place with 91 point after 64 games. The Penguins are three points out with 88 in 65 games. The Rangers have 85 points in 64 games. The Blueshirts have two more meetings with Carolina this season.
The Penguins have been on a roll. They have gone 12-5-2 since the All-Star break led by Sidney Crosby who is having another fabulous season. He has 23 goals and 66 points in 53 games.
They have dominated the Rangers with a 15-4-3 record in their last 22 meetings. They’ve also won nine of their last 14 games at the Garden.
The Rangers need Igor Shesterkin to get back on track. After allowed more than three goals in a game only three times in his first 37 games, he has done it three times in his last five starts. While Gerard Gallant will be the first person to pin the blame on the team in front of Shesterkin, we’ve gotten much to accustomed to superlative goaltending from him and not getting it is a big problem.
Their last meeting
The Rangers dropped a 1-0 decision to the Penguins in a nationally televised game on February 26. The only goal was a third period power play goal scored by Evgeni Malkin. Igor Shesterkin was in net for New York and stopped 25 of 26 shots.
Projected starting lineups
Gerard Gallant has made it clear that he will be experimenting a lot, considering the addition of four new faces. So, in this game there are lots of changes in the lineup for the Rangers. Frank Vatrano will get a chance to play on the right side of Zibanejad and Kreider, moving Alexis Lafreniere to the third lien with Barclay Goodrow and Filip Chytil. Andrew Copp gets to have a shot at the right side of Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin.
Ryan Reaves will be sitting this one out with Jonny Brodzinski back in the lineup at center with Tyler Motte and Dryden Hunt.
The defensive lineup remains the same as on Tuesday versus the Devils.
NEW YORK RANGERS
20 Kreider – 93 Zibanejad – 77 Vatrano
23 Panarin – 16 Strome -18 Copp
13 Lafrenière – 72 Chytil – 21 Goodrow
|64 Motte – 76 Brodzinski – 29 Hunt
55 Lindgren – 23 Fox
79 Miller – 8 Trouba
15 Nemeth – 61 Braun
59 Jake Guentzel – 87 Sidney Crosby – 9 Evan Rodrigues
67 Rickard Rakel – 71 Evgeni Malkin – 17 Bryan Rust
43 Danton Heinen – 77 Jeff Carter– 42 Kasperi Kapanen
63 Radim Zohorna – 53 Teddy Blueger – 11 Brian Boyle
8 Brian Dumoulin – 58 Kris Letang
5 Mike Matheson – 6 John Marino
28 Marcus Pettersson – 2 Chad Ruhwedel
35 Tristan Jarry
1 Casey DeSmith
Rickard Rakell is going to play in his third game with the Penguins and has not registered a point yet. Tristan Jarry will be in net. He shut out the Rangers in their last meeting, stopping 27 shots in that 1-0 win. He has started 11 of the last 15 games for the Pens and he is fifth in the NHL in goals against average (2.26) and seventh in save percentage (.923). He is 6-2-0 lifetime against the Rangers.
How to watch and the live conversation
The game starts at 7pm and the local telecast will be on MSG+. The national telecast will be available on the NHL Network. Radiocast will be on WEPN 1050AM.
The Blue Line Station live conversation is active now and there will be an awful lot to talk about as the Blueshirts take on this key opponent. You can join the live conversation in the comments section below. Please join in!