Rangers aim to start season strong on the road in Chicago

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers celebrate a goal 9-30

The Rangers are back! Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The long wait is finally over, and New York Rangers hockey is back!

The New York Rangers will begin their 89th season in the NHL on the road against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, fellow Original Six franchise, the Chicago Blackhawks. This is now the eighth straight season that the Rangers begin the season away from Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers will have to watch as they raise yet another Championship banner into the rafters at the United Center, a reminder of what has eluded them over the past few seasons. Perhaps the Rangers could use this as a source of motivation and work towards having this ceremony at MSG next season.

Tonight’s matchup is a game between two of the elite teams from last season. The Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy last season with a franchise record 113 points, while the Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup since 2010.

The Rangers split the season series with Chicago last season, and both games were full of strong defensive play and goaltending battles. Both games finished 1-0, and both times the road team came away with a victory. Derick Brassard scored an overtime goal at the United Center on March 8th, scoring the lone goal on New York’s 36th shot of the game.

While Corey Crawford will be in net again for the Blackhawks, it will be Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes for the Rangers. Lundqvist looked spectacular during the preseason, protecting the bottom of the net as good as anyone, and really only getting beaten on deflections and rebounds. He continues to be the backbone of this team, and the Rangers will need him to be effective against a dangerous Blackhawks lineup.

henrik lundqvist front shot 9-30

Henrik Lundqvist will open the season between the pipes for the Rangers. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Despite losing Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad and Brad Richards, head coach Joel Quenneville still has a lot at his disposal. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are still there, making a combined $21 million. Marian Hossa is still a very effective player, and second year Finnish forward Teuvo Teravainen. Former Ranger Artem Anisimov will take over second line center duties.

The Rangers are a very similar team to last year as well. Nothing has changed on defense, and apart from Martin St. Louis, the top six is identical. The difference is in the depth.

Keep an eye on Oscar Lindberg and Viktor Stalberg. Stalberg, who won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013, was very impressive during training camp, surprising Vigneault with his physical play, ability to instigate and draw penalties, and his forechecking.

Oscar Lindberg was the recipient of the Lars Erik Sjoberg award given to the best rookie in the Rangers training camp, showcasing his versatility across all positions, his ability to win faceoffs, kill penalties, and contribute offensively. After a 28 goal season in Hartford, Lindberg will get the chance to play in a more offensive role on the third line, and play alongside Stalberg, a duo that demonstrated chemistry in the preseason. JT Miller will round out the third line.

Oscar Lindberg skating 9-21

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Kevin Hayes is now a top-six forward for the Rangers, moving from center to the right wing and playing alongside Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider. This is one of the biggest lines on the team, and one of the most skilled. With Hayes’ playmaking ability, Kreider’s incredible speed and wrist shot, and Derek Stepan’s great all-around play, this should be a very fun line to watch.

Mats Zuccarello is back, and he’s healthy, which is of utmost importance for the Rangers. When he was absent in the playoffs, the team just wasn’t the same. His vision is like none other, he plays a surprising physical game, and he’ll score some goals too. He reclaims the right wing spot on the top line.

Jarret Stoll will look to take full advantage of his second chance, centering the fourth line with Dom Moore and Jesper Fast on the wings. I think this line has more offensive promise, with the aggressive forechecker Tanner Glass serving as a healthy scratch. Two centers on the fourth line has worked before, when the Rangers had Brian Boyle and Dom Moore skating together two seasons ago.

The Rangers and the Blackhawks will face off at the United Center at 8 PM. The game will be broadcasted on NBCSN.

Tonight’s Lines

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Krieder-Derek Stepan-Kevin Hayes

Viktor Stalberg-Oscar Lindberg-JT Miller

Dominic Moore-Jarret Stoll-Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Posted on October 7, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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