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Rangers begin tough stretch tonight against St. Louis; McDonagh expected back

Bobby Bevilacqua

ryan mcdonagh full body good pic 12-15

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Following a 5-2 loss that featured one of their worst periods of the entire season, the Rangers (34-20-6) continue their road trip and take on the St. Louis Blues (35-18-9) at the Scottrade Center.

The Blueshirts are in a tough stretch of the season where they will play a majority of the games on the road, and come up against a lot of good, playoff teams. Following tonight’s game, they’ll play the Stars, the Penguins, the Capitals, the Islanders, and other quality teams. On top of that, they continue to struggle on the road, posting a 12-14-3 record in games away from Madison Square Garden.

This is the second and final matchup between these two teams, and the Rangers will be looking to sweep the season series. Back in November, they scored three goals in the first period en route to a 6-3 rout of the Blues. Mats Zucccarello had two goals and an assist, while Derick Brassard and Dan Girardi each had a goal and an assist. Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves.

Despite countless injuries, St. Louis has managed to stay strong and competitive within the Central Division, sitting just two points behind the leading Dallas Stars. They’re 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, and had won three straight before falling to the San Jose Sharks on Monday.

In that game, the Blues lost goaltender Bryan Elliot to a lower body injury in that game, and he will miss significant time. Elliot had been playing extremely well, but now Jake Allen gets a chance to reclaim the starting spot he had lost to Elliot while he was injured himself. This will be Allen’s first start since January 8th. He is 18-11-3 with a 2.18 GAA and a .923 save percentage.

When you think of the St. Louis Blues, you probably think of Vladimir Tarasenko. The 24 year old Russian forward is coming off of a 37 goal, 73 point season, and he’s on track to come close to those numbers again. Tarasenko had a goal and two assists on Monday night, giving him 54 points (29-25-54) so far. He’s an elite scorer with an incredible shot, and he’ll be the go-to guy.

Blues’ captain David Backes scored his 200th career goal on Monday against the Sharks, and he sits in third on the team with scoring with 33 points (15-18-33). However, there are rumors that Backes, an upcoming UFA, could be gone by the trade deadline. However, he remains professional and focused, and will be aiming to be a 20 goal scorer for the sixth time in his career, and he’s still a strong defensive forward. He’ll be a factor throughout the game.

Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding on Tuesday night, mainly during the second period when he made countless saves to keep the Rangers in the game. Hank is playing some of the best hockey of the season, and a win tonight would give him 30 wins for the 10th time in his career. Lundqvist has a 2.31 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

I pointed him out in my preview before last game, and I’m bringing up Kevin Hayes again. I think it’s safe to say that the sophomore slump is over, and Hayes has been consistently producing and impacting the game. He scored again against the Devils, giving him seven points (3-4-7) in the last seven games. The third line has been playing really well, especially Viktor Stalberg, who has been creating lots of chances and motoring down the wing. Watch out for Hayes and the third line.

Alain Vigneault said he was looking for more out of his fourth line, and he got it on Tuesday night. Dominic Moore scored the Rangers’ second goal, his sixth of the season, and Marek Hrivik picked up his first career NHL point. I’ve liked Hrivik on that line so far, and I see the combination of Glass-Moore-Hrivik improving and having an impact tonight. Glass needs to do more except just hit, but he’s shown that he can be an effective grinder when he really wants to.

Ryan McDonagh was expected to travel with the team, and it’s likely that he will be back in the lineup tonight after Tuesday’s poor defensive showing. Brady Skjei was sent back down to the AHL, so Marc Staal will probably be back too.

The Rangers and the Blues will face off at the Scottrade Center at 8 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

EXPECTED LINES

JT Miller-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Oscar Lindberg-Kevin Hayes-Viktor Stalberg

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Marek Hrivik

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on February 25, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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