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Rangers close out homestand against Coyotes; Rick Nash expected to play

Bobby Bevilacqua

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Rick Nash is back in the Rangers lineup as they get ready to take on the Arizona Coyotes. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers (37-16-6) carry a season high nine game point streak (7-0-2) into the Garden, where they will look to finish their three game homestand on a high note when they take on the struggling Arizona Coyotes (20-34-7), who have lost seven consecutive games.

One of those seven losses came at the hands of the Rangers, with New York coming away with a big 5-1 win in Arizona. Rick Nash scored the game winner early in the third period, and Kevin Hayes scored his first ever shorthanded goal, which made it three straight games that he scored in.

Not only do the Rangers have the point streak going, but they have arguable been the NHL’s best deam since early December. Since December 8th, the Rangers are 26-6-2, and lead the league in wins (26), points (54), point percentage (.794), ROW (24), and goal differential (+41). They are also tied for second in the league in goals per game (3.26), and second in goals allowed per game (2.09).

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The Rangers have been scoring a lot lately, including a five goal outburst when these two tams faced off last time. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The Coyotes lineup may look a bit different tonight with the trade deadline coming closer and closer. Arizona has already recalled two player in the past couple of days, which could indicate that someone like Antoine Vermette or Keith Yandle may be getting moved before tonight’s game.

That has not been confirmed, so the Rangers will need to prepare with those two in mind, as Yandle and Vermette are the first and second leading scorers on the team, respectively. New addition Mark Arcobello, playing for his fourth team this season, has played very well for the Coyotes so far, scoring four times in his first six games as a member of the Coyotes.

Henrik Samuelsson, the son of Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, will be making his NHL debut tonight in front of his dad for Arizona. Samuelsson has 10 goals and 15 assists in 50 games for the Portland Pirates.

Mike Smith will be in net for the Coyotes, and simply put, he has not had a great year. After a dominant 2011-12 season, which saw Arizona go all the way to the Western Conference Finals, Smith has been on the decline apparently, and his record of 10-28-5 shows that. Granted, he doesn’t have a strong team in front of him, but he also has a 3.27 GAA and a .895 save percentage, not great numbers. He gave up five goals on 39 starts in his last start against the Islanders on Tuesday, the team’s seventh straight loss.

Cam Talbot will be in net for the Rangers, coming off a 21 save shutout effort over the Calgary Flames. One of Talbot’s best starts of the season was against the Coyotes, where he stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced. Hopefully the last game instilled some confidence in Talbot, and he can carry it into a game against a struggling Coyotes team on home ice.

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Cam Talbot is back in between the pipes for the Blueshirts following a great shutout performance on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

After missing the last game with neck spasms, Rick Nash was back on the ice for the morning skate, skating in his usual spot alongside Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. Jesper Fast was also cleared for contact, but he will not be ready for tonight’s game.

Nash has eight goals and five assists in his last 12 games played, giving him a total of 58 points (37-21-58) in 58 games played. Nash didn’t pick up a point in his last game played, and he doesn’t usually stay off of the scoresheet for long, so expect him to be a force on the ice tonight.

His linemate, Derick Brassard, assisted on the only goal in the win against Calgary, stealing the puck on the forecheck and setting up Kevin Hayes. Not only has Brassard set new career highs in assists (35) and points (48), he continues to be one of the most consistent players on the team, registering 13 points (1-12-13) in his last 12 games. He’s earned more ice time, more responsibilities, and has been a key player for the Rangers throughout the season.

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Derick Brassard has been the Rangers best set up man, leading the team with 35 assists, and 13 points in his last 12 games. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Since the beginning of the “Father’s road trip” on February 10th, I have been consistently impressed by the fourth line each game. The combination of Tanner Glass, Dominic Moore, and Lee Stempniak have finally been able to sustain long forechecking shifts, creating pressure, offensive zone faceoffs, and icings really well lately. Stempniak scored in the last game against the Coyotes, and this trio finally seems like they can start contributing offensively, and may do so again tonight.

John Moore is expected to slot into the sixth defenseman spot for Matt Hunwick, but Matt Hunwick might still be in the lineup. Vigneault stated that the flu bug is still going around, and reporters have said that Marc Staal wasn’t feeling great on Tuesday. So the defensive pairings are not set for tonight.

This is the perfect opportunity for the Rangers to jump on a vulnerable team with trades possibly looming, and would instill some confidence in the guys before a tough stretch of games starting Saturday against the Flyers. A win tonight would give the Rangers first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Rangers and the Coyotes will face off at Madison Square Garden at 7 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG+.

EXPECTED LINEUP (Not Confirmed)

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin-Kevin Hayes-JT Miller

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Lee Stempniak

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Kevin Klein

John Moore-Dan Boyle

Cam Talbot

Follow The Ranger Zone on Twitter here for updates, opinions and links to articles throughout the day. Got any comments or questions? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Posted on February 26, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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