Advertisements

Big night for Sather, AV as Rangers take on the Edmonton Oilers

Bobby Bevilacqua

Dan Girardi 12-14

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

When the Rangers (18-8-3) take on the Oilers (12-15-2) at Rexall Place for the final time, it will not just be a regular season clash between the two teams. Tonight is a special night for both Glen Sather and Alain Vigneault.

Glen Sather cemented himself in Oilers history by coaching the team to four Stanley Cups during their dynasty years of the 1980s, and overseeing a fifth as the team’s GM. He played a major role in attracting players like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and others by building through the draft. Sather will be honored in a pre-game ceremony and have a banner raised to the rafters.

For Alain Vigneault, the Rangers head coach will be behind the bench for his 1000th career NHL game, coming with the Canadiens, Canucks and now the Rangers. Vigneault was very reflective leading up to the game tonight, and has spoken fondly about his time with the Rangers – where he is the franchise leader in points percentage with a record of 116-61-16 and a winning percentage of .646 since the start of the 2013-14 season.

“I know that I’ve been fortunate, very privileged, to be coaching in this league,” Vigneault told Jim Cerny of Blueshirts United. “I don’t feel like I’ve worked a day in my life because I love what I do.”

Vigneault has a very impressive record as head coach, amassing a 538-349-35-77 record. The Canucks gave him a second chance after he was fired by Montreal, and he has proven himself as one of the best coaches in the NHL. Vigneault won the Jack Adams Trophy as the league’s best coach in 2006-07, and has been a finalist two other times, including last season. Vigneault has won the Presidents’ Trophy three times and has appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals twice.

alain vigneault smiling 10-25

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

But despite the milestones and ceremonies, there is an important game that will be played on the ice at Rexall Place tonight. The Oilers are looking to string together a five game winning streak for the first time since 2013, and they’re actually fighting for playoff contention in the awful Pacific Division. The Rangers kicked off their road trip with a disappointing loss to the Canucks, and they’re just 2-5-1 in their last eight games.

This is the first of two matchups between the Rangers and Oilers, with both games coming in the next five days. The teams split the season series a year ago, with the road team winning each game. Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers were victorious in their last trip to Rexall place, skating to a 2-0 win with a game winning goal from Dan Girardi.

Edmonton is an exciting team to watch, mainly due to their stockpile of young talent. Taylor Hall is leading the team in goals (12), assists (18) and points (30), and his tied with New Jersey’s Mike Cammalleri for sixth in the league in scoring. Leon Draisaitl has been fantastic since he was called up, scoring 22 points (9-13-22) in just 19 games.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov and Teddy Purcell are other names to look out for. Eberle has been heating up, with a goal in each of his last three games. On defense, highly-touted prospect Darnell Nurse has played well in 20 games, and Andrej Sekera adds some veteran experience on the blue line.

Two former Rangers are now on the Oilers, but neither of them may play tonight. Benoit Pouliot, a key member of the third line in the Rangers run to the finals in 2014, has not played since November 30th, but could join the lineup tonight. Cam Talbot was expected to be the Oilers starting goalie, but has lost his job to rookie Anders Nilsson.

cam talbot oilers

Photo courtesy of Bruce Edwards/Edmonton Journal.

 

Henrik Lundqvist has played well in his last three games, giving up just four goals on 86 shots for a .953 save percentage. He has just one win in those games due to the Rangers scoring woes. Lundqvist is 2-2-2 with a 2.02 GAA and a .922 save percentage in six games against Edmonton.

Analytics and “fancy stats” predicted a regression in scoring for the Rangers, and the scoring woes are real. The Rangers have scored just five goals at even strength in their last six games, with one being an empty netter and another being a penalty shot.

What’s worse is the fact that everyone is struggling.

Kevin Hayes has a goal and three assists in the last 13 games. Chris Kreider has a goal two assists in his last 12 games. Even Mats Zuccarello has just one goal in the last nine games. JT Miller, one of the more energetic and better players recently, also has just a goal and two assists in the last 13 games. And Rick Nash, who broke out for six goals in four games back in November, has just two assists in the last six games.

kevin hayes pass to kreider 10-10

Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider are two players that really need to start producing more. Photo courtesy of MSG photos.

It has been really bad, and really hard to watch. The offense isn’t clicking, the team isn’t getting their lucky bounces anymore, and they’re losing close games that they should realistically be winning. The Capitals have already overtaken them in the standings, and the Islanders aren’t far behind. Something needs to change, and it needs to change tonight.

There’s not just one player to look out for, because everyone needs to better. But I do think Keith Yandle will have a good night. Yandle has 20 points (6-14-20) in 32 games against Edmonton, and he has had absolutely no luck at all this season. It’s gotta change sometime.

There is a good chance that Etem gets into the lineup tonight. He’s rotting in the press box while Tanner Glass and Jarret Stoll play. Glass has been fine, pretty good actually. But Stoll has seen everything except for his faceoff percentage dip recently.

The Rangers and the Oilers will face off at Rexall Place at 9:30 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

EXPECTED LINEUP (NOT CONFIRMED)

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

Advertisements

Posted on December 11, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: