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Raanta starts in net for the first time in a month as the Ranger battle the Kings

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs Kings 3-24

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers (31-18-5) are finally back on their feet and playing consistently, and they kick off a three game home stand tonight against the Los Angeles Kings (32-18-3).

Wednesday night’s game against the Penguins marked the fourth straight win for the Rangers, their longest win streak since they won nine games in a row back in October and November. Playing without Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh has forced them to face the adversity and rise to the challenge, which they’ve done admirably.

This is the first of two matchups between these two teams and the only one that will take place at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers will travel to Los Angeles on March 16th for a game at the Staples Center. Last season, the teams split the season series, with the road team coming away with a 4-2 win both times.

The Kings played last night in their first ever trip to the Barclays Center, losing to the Islanders by a final score of 5-2. Jhonas Enroth allowed four goals on 29 shots, while Kyle Clifford and Milan Lucic each tallied a goal.

The Kings are without Jonathan Quick for the time being, so Peter Budaj will make his first start of the season. His last NHL appearance was in Game 1 of the 2014 ECF against the Rangers, giving up 3 goals on 8 shots. In the AHL with Ontario, he is 26-9-3 with a 1.58 GAA and .935 save percentage. The Slovakian netminder also has eight shutouts this year.

Milan Lucic is enjoying a pretty solid first season in LA, providing depth for the Kings and a power forward to partner with Anze Kopitar. Lucic is fourth on the team in scoring with 34 points (14-20-34), and his 14 goals are tied with Jeff Carter for second on the Kings. He’s scored in two consecutive games, with three points (2-1-3) in that span.

It’s pretty remarkable that Anze Kopitar is still somewhat of an underrated player in the NHL, despite centering the Kings top line to two Stanley Cup Championships. He has 47 points (13-34-47) in 53 games this season, and he has seven assists in the last eight games. He’s also a fantastic defensive forwards, finishing in the top-10 for the Selke Award five times.

When the Flyers traded veteran center Vincent Lecavalier to the Kings, they were just trying to dump his salary, not interested in playing him. But Darryl Sutter inserted him into the lineup, and Lecavalier has been playing really well for him. In 14 games with LA, he’s collected eight points, scoring four times on the power play while playing upwards of 12 minutes a night. He could catch the Rangers off guard if they aren’t careful, so they’ll need to be aware when the third line is on the ice.

Antti Raanta was the first goalie off the ice following the morning skate, which means that he’ll be playing in his first game in nearly a month. Raanta last started on January 12th against the Capitals, surrendering four goals on 23 shots. After starting off the season with four wins, he hasn’t won since November 15th. Lundqvist has been playing very well and he needs a rest, so Vigneault could seriously use a solid performance from his backup.

The Rangers will be without Ryan McDonagh for the third straight game, meaning that Keith Yandle will continue to take on a bigger role, which he has handled excellently so far. After playing just 15:40 against Minnesota, he played for 27:33 with a gal and four shots against the Flyers, 25:19 and five shots against New Jersey, and 22:43 with an assist against Pittsburgh. His 29 points is fifth most on the team, and three ahead of McDonagh for the most by a Rangers defenseman. Expect him to play a lot again tonight, and hopefully snap the Rangers out of their 2-50 funk on the power play.

Rick Nash is also still sidelined with his injury, which means that the top line of Derick Brassard, JT Miller and Jesper Fast will be leaned upon heavily again tonight. The trip has 21 points in the last six games. JT Miller has scored nine goals in the last 10 games, Brassard has nine points (3-6-9) in the last six games, and Fat has a three game point streak with six points in the last six games.

Last year, Dan Boyle had a goal and two assists in the two games against the Kings. With McDonagh out, he’s shifted to the left side, which he’s handled alright. At times, he has looked a bit sluggish or tired at times, but he’ll need to be productive tonight. To beat the Kings, it’ll probably require some scoring from the blue line, and Boyle is my player to watch.

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

EXPECTED LINEUP

JT Miller-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Oscar Lindberg-Kevin Hayes-Viktor Stalberg

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Daniel Paille

Keith Yandle-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Kevin Klein

Dan Boyle-Dylan McIlrath

Antti Raanta

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Posted on February 12, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Don’t think Quick is starting tonight.. Is day to day with a lower body injury

    Like

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