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Rangers look for bounce-back game in Toronto; Raanta expected to start

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs Maple Leafs

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After watching two points go out the window last night, the Rangers (32-19-6) will look to rebound on the road tonight as they battle the Toronto Maple Leafs (20-26-9) at the Air Canada Centre.

The Rangers scored three straight goals, including two on the power play, to take a lead early in the third period. But their weak penalty kill let them down, surrendering two goals and giving up the lead with three minutes remaining in the third, ultimately losing the game 5-3. It snapped a 10 game point streak (8-0-2) on home ice and it was their first regulation loss at MSG since December 20th.

Tonight is the third and final game between the Rangers and Maple Leafs this season, and New York will be looking for a sweep of the season series. On October 30th, Mats Zuccarello recorded his first NHL hat trick in a 3-1 win at the Garden, and Zuccs led the Rangers to another home win on November 30th with a goal and a pair of assists.

This is also a matchup between the worst home team in the NHL and one of the worse road teams in the league. Toronto has won just eight of 23 games on home ice, while the Rangers have won just 11 out of 27 road games, although they have won two straight and three of the last four away from the Garden.

The Maple Leafs are kicking off a four game home stand following a 1-4-0 road trip, and they will play 15 of the next 19 game at the Air Canada Centre. It’s been a rocky first year under Mike Babcock and the team will be in contention for the first overall pick at the draft.

Toronto’s lone All Star representative, Leo Komarov, is leading his team offensively this year, scoring 18 goals with 17 assists through 55 games played. Last season he tallied a goal and four assists in the three games against the Rangers, but he hasn’t scored against New York this season. However, with little offensive firepower for Toronto to lean on, you can expect Komarov to be active.

Apart from Lupul, the Maple Leafs have a few other guys who are a threat with the puck, such as Nazem Kadri (11-17-28), Tyler Bozak (10-21-31) and even PA Parenteau (14-15-29).

James Reimer has taken over the role as the starting goaltender in Toronto, and he’s been pretty solid. Reimer is 11-11-6 with a 2.45 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

Alain Vigneault wouldn’t say who the starter would be in net, but Antti Raanta is the likely starter. AV said he wanted to get his backup more starts, and a game against a weak Toronto team would be the perfect time to do so. Raanta wasn’t good in his last start, which was his first full game in a while, and he admitted afterwards to being very nervous and rusty. Hopefully the confidence comes back as he looks for his first win since November 15th, coincidentally against Toronto.

Mats Zuccarello had another really strong game last night, not collecting any points but playing an effective game and clicking with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider again. In nine career games against Toronto, he’s scored eight goals and 11 points, with four of the goals and six of those points coming in a pair of three point contests against the Maple Leafs this season.

Kevin Hayes also continued his upward trend in his performance lately, finding the back of the net for the third time in the last four games. He also picked up an assist on a great pass to Dan Boyle, and now has 10 points in the last 17 games.

The Rangers penalty kill was terrible again last night, as it has been for a few months now. Thankfully, Toronto is the worst power play team in the league, scoring just 26 goals on 175 opportunities. But the Rangers still need to be careful. AV has managed to get the power play working lately, scoring on four of their last seven chances. They need to take advantage of Toronto’s poor PK as well (79.8%).

The Rangers and the Maple Leafs will face off at the Air Canada Centre at 7:30 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Networks.

EXPECTED LINES

JT Miller-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Oscar Lindberg-Kevin Hayes-Viktor Stalberg

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Daniel Paille

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Antti Raanta

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Posted on February 18, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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