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Rangers continue homestand against the Panthers; Lundqvist expected to play

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers salute the crowd 1-31

The Rangers will look to salute the crowd at home and come away with another win when they take on the Florida Panthers tonight at 7 PM. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After winning on Saturday to end their brief two game skid, the Rangers (28-15-4) will take on the struggling Florida Panthers (21-16-10, who have lost six of their last seven games.

This will be the second matchup of the season between these two teams, with the first being a 5-2 Rangers victory on December 31st. In that game, Derek Stepan recorded three assists, and Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, and Martin St. Louis recorded a goal and an assist. Henrik Lundqvist earned the win with 18 saves.

The Panthers are coming off of a 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils in the first game of a three game road trip. Roberto Luongo started in goal, but did not have a heavy workload, facing just 13 shots. He will likely start for the Panthers tonight against the Rangers. Brandon Pirri scored the lone goal for the Panthers, and has found the back of the net three times in the past four games.

After a strong start to the season, Florida has slipped from the playoff race, sitting eight points behind the Washington Capitals for the final Wild Card Spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Panthers are led by some young stars, with the most notable being Nick Bjugstad and the 18-year-old Aaron Ekblad. Bjugstad is off to the best start of his career, tallying 16 goals and 13 assists in all 47 of the Panthers games this year. The 16 goals ties his career high, and he has been one of the better players on the Panthers team.

aaron ekblad

Aaron Ekblad has been very impressive in his rookie season, tallying 28 points while playing on the top defensive pairing for the Florida Panthers.

 

Aaron Ekblad has shined in his rookie year down in Florida. At the age of just 18, he has already played in the All Star game, and leads rookie defensemen in points, as well as being the second highest scorer on the Panthers. Ekblad enters tonight’s game with 28 points (7-21-28) and plays top line minutes for the Panthers. He will certainly have a big impact in tonight’s game.

The Rangers offense came alive against the Hurricanes on Saturday, with four different players lighting the lamp after the team had scored just one goal in the previous two games. Although the Rangers were leading 2-1 after the first half, mostly thanks to Henrik Lundqvist and his 15 first period saves, they were not playing very well, with minimal possession and not a ton of offensive chances.

lundqvist glove save 1-31

Henrik Lundqvist was a huge part of the Rangers victory on Saturday, stopping 31 shots despite an injury scare in the second period. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault noticed this, and switched up the lines to finish out Saturday’s game with these line combinations; Rick Nash-Derek Stepan-Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast, Chris Kreider-Kevin Hayes-Mats Zuccarello, Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-JT Miller.

It is not known whether Vigneault will stick with these lines for tonight’s game, but the Rangers played much better in the final half of the game, so it wouldn’t be surprising if these are the starting lines on Monday Night.

After taking a puck to the throat area in the game against the Hurricanes, Henrik Lundqvist will start for the Rangers tonight, yet another testament to his toughness and dedication to the game. Lundqvist picked up his 333rd career win on Saturday, tying him for 20th place all-time in the NHL. Lundqvist is 24-11-3 with a 2.23 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

Chris Kreider has been the most dominant Rangers player as of late, scoring six goals as well as four assists over the past 13 games. Kreider’s speed and power are noticeable every night, and he appears ready to make a second half surge. Kreider’s goal on Saturday came on the line with Kevin Hayes, and the two big-bodied Boston College products played well together.

chris kreider goal celebration 1-31

Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes connected for a goal on Saturday, and make for an interesting line combination if the stay together for tonight’s game. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Derick Brassard also should be a big factor in tonight’s game. Brassard was fantastic over the start of the season, but has just one goal and three assists in the last 10 games. Brassard leads the Rangers in power play points with 14 (4-10-14), and will try to help awaken a New York power play unit that has gone 2-23 on the man advantage in the past nine games.

The only lineup change for the Rangers will be on the fourth line, with Lee Stempniak replacing JT Miller for tonight’s game.

The Rangers will take on the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden at 7 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

EXPECTED LINES (Not Confirmed)

Rick Nash-Derek Stepan-Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast

Chris Kreider-Kevin Hayes-Mats Zuccarello

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Lee Stempniak

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Kevin Klein

John Moore-Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on February 2, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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