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Rangers look to end 2014 on a positive note against the Panthers

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers and panthers

The Rangers and the Panthers will face off for the first time this season on Wednesday, and both teams will be looking to end the season on a good note.

The Rangers (19-11-4) will be looking to finish the season strong, and will be matched up against a surprising Florida Panthers (16-9-8) team in the final game of 2014.

The Panthers will be playing their second game in as many days, and lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the shootout on Tuesday night. Roberto Luongo started in net for the Panthers, meaning that Al Montoya will start against the Rangers. Montoya is 2-2-2 with a 2.27 goals allowed average and a .915 save percentage.

The Panthers have been dubbed the “Comeback Cats” by many of their supporters, mainly due to their ability to comeback late in games, as well as sending the game to overtime frequently, leading the league in overtime games with 15 this season. They scored four goals in overtime to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, and scored a goal with less than two minutes to send the game into overtime before losing in the shootout.

The biggest story on the Panthers is the play of 18 year old rookie defenseman, Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad was taken by Florida with the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, and has impressed so far. Not only is he playing top line minutes, Ekblad already has 20 points (5-15-20) in just 34 games this season. Ekblad has an assist on Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens.

Nick Bjugstad is one of the other young stars for the Panthers. Bjugstad is the team’s leading scorer, with 21 points (13-8-21) so far this season. Bjugstad is a big, six-foot-six center who stands out amongst the Panthers unique mix of young talent and veteran leadership.

The Rangers are coming off of their first loss since December 6th, falling to the Dallas Stars 3-2. JT Miller and Kevin Hayes were the two goal scorers for the Rangers.

Rick Nash was held off of the score sheet against the Stars, and has not tallied a point in the past two games. However, He still has played well in both games, and is usually not held pointless for long. Nash has 36 points this season, (23-13-36), and I expect him to have a big game tomorrow night.

rick nash 11-1

Rick Nash is off to a tremendous start to the year. He has not scored in the past two games, but does not remain pointless for long, so look for him to have a strong game against the Panthers. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

The rest of the Rangers top line has also been performing very well lately, with Mats Zuccarello playing extremely well as of late and Derick Brassard coming back into form since returning from the mumps.

Ryan McDonagh has also been playing at a very high level, like many of the other Rangers defensemen. McDonagh is tied with Kevin Klein for the most points amongst Rangers defensemen with 11 (2-9-11). He has also returned to his top form, playing shut down defensively. The Rangers defense has been a huge part of the Rangers success lately.

Kevin Hayes will be facing off against his brother, Jimmy Hayes, for the first time at the NHL level. Kevin Hayes is enjoying a solid start to his rookie year, with 13 points (5-8-13) in 31 games. Jimmy Hayes is off to the best start he has ever had, with 10 goals and a total of 16 points in 26 games.

The Rangers and the Panthers will face off at 6 PM in Florida. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

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Posted on December 31, 2014, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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