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Rangers begin three game road trip in Vancouver; McDonagh slowly improving

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs canucks opening faceoff 2-19

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Following a big rebound win over the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers (18-7-3) head out on a three game road trip to Western Canada, starting their trip against the Vancouver Canucks (10-11-8), a team that has struggled to win games lately.

New York have played a lot of their games at home to begin the season, but will play five of the next six games on the road, with five of those games coming against Canadian teams. Last season, the team’s trip through Western Canada kick started their season, sweeping Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, outscoring the teams 12-3 along the way.

Since Alain Vigneault joined the Rangers as head coach, the team has been very good away from home. The Blueshirts are 17-1-1 during road trips of three games or longer since the start of last season, and they’re 15-2-0 against Western Conference teams since last season.

The Rangers have also dominated the Pacific Division, going 15-2-1 against that division from the start of last season, as well as a perfect 8-0-0 at Pacific opponents during that span.

alain vigneault on bench 12-2

Alain Vigneault has coached the Rangers into a strong road team. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

This is the first of two games against the Canucks, and the only one that will take place at the Rogers Arena. Last year, the Rangers were 1-0-1, winning their road game in Vancouver. They scored at least four goals in each of the games, with Rick Nash (1-2-3), Mats Zuccarello (2-1-3) and Derick Brassard (0-3-3) each tallying three points.

The Canucks took down the Sabres 5-2 on Monday night, snapping a five game losing streak, but they’re just 3-7-3 in their last 13 games after a strong start to the season. Things have started falling apart, with goalie Ryan Miller calling out the defense and the team struggling to score goals.

Miller is expected to get the start for the Canucks coming off of a 32 save performance on Monday. The 35 year-old veteran has posted an 8-9-6 record along with a 2.57 GAA and a .912 save percentage.

The Canucks top line is one of the best in the league, and perhaps the best in team history. The Sedin twins skate alongside Radim Vrbata, and the trio has combined for 73 points through the first 29 games of the season. Daniel Sedin (12-19-31) and Henrik Sedin (9-18-27) have some sort of twin mental telepathy, regularly making no look passes to each other and combining on goals. Vrbata has added another offensive outlet on that line, with nine goals this season. Daniel has 20 points in his last 14 games.

The Rangers will counter with Henrik Lundqvist, making his 23rd start of the season. Henrik was really effective on Sunday, turning aside 23 of the 24 shots that he faced. Lundqvist is second in the league in goals against average (1.99), first in save percentage (.938), and third with 14 wins. In his one start against Vancouver, Lundqvist allowed just one goal on 30 shots.

Ryan McDonagh is slowly starting to play like his former self, coming off of a strong performance against the Senators, scoring his fourth goal of the season and picking up two assists. McDonagh’s four goals lead all defenseman, and his 13 points is just one shy of Keith Yandle’s total. The Rangers will really need him to be at his best against the Canucks top line.

ryan mcdonagh profile good pic 12-6

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Derick Brassard found the back of the net twice on Sunday, giving him a total of 20 points (9-11-20) so far. Only Mats Zuccarello has more (11-11-20). Brass has improved his performance in the faceoff circle this season, and will be leaned on heavily with Stepan still out.

Chris Kreider was much more noticeable in his last game while playing alongside Oscar Lindberg and Rick Nash, and his presence was certainly felt on both sides of the puck. He had three shots on goal, but missed the net four times. It was a better showing, but he needs to hit the target and score more.

Dylan McIrath had another strong showing against the Senators. What impressed me was his booming slap shot from the point. If he can learn to place it better, he’ll be a threat. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he scores his first NHL goal tonight.

The Rangers and the Canucks will face off at the Rogers Arena at 10 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG+.

EXPECTED LINEUP

Chris Kreider-Oscar Lindberg-Rick Nash

Kevin Hayes-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

JT Miller-Dominic Moore-Jesper Fast

Tanner Glass-Jarret Stoll-Viktor Stalberg

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle-Dylan McIlrath

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on December 9, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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