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Rangers begin crucial California Road trip in Anaheim; Raanta in net

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs ducks 3-22

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After a tough run and four losses in the last six games, the Rangers (39-23-7) begin a crucial road trip on the west coast with a game against the Anaheim Ducks (38-21-9), presenting a chance for them to get rolling as the season comes to a close.

The Rangers have lost back-to-back games for the first time since December 20th, and have lost four of the last six games. Recently they have been out possessed, generating very little scoring chances (8 SOG in last 40 minutes versus Penguins), and relying way too much on goaltending. It’s reminiscent of November and December, when the team was scoring on an extremely high percentage of their shots but allowing too many scoring chances. Eventually it caught up to them and the team went through a massive slump.

This is the last time a team wants to start slumping. Going into the playoffs with momentum and confidence can make the difference between a first round exit and advancing to the second round.

Last season the Rangers swept their California road trip, winning games against the Kings, the Sharks and the Ducks. While they were already playing well before that, the success from that road trip was a turning point in the season and helped propel them to the Presidents’ trophy. A good road trip here could be just what the Rangers need. And with the Islanders and Penguins right at their heels, points are crucial right now.

At the start of the season, the Ducks looked like a disappointment, and they didn’t look like a playoff team. They just snapped a three game skid with a 7-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. But prior to that, they put themselves right back in the playoff race by winning 20 of 23 games (20-2-1) since January 13th. Everyone is playing well, they’re scoring goals again, and they’re a strong team in the Western Conference.

This is the second and final matchup between these two teams this season. The Rangers won the first meeting at MSG in overtime thanks to a goal from Mats Zuccarello, giving New York a 3-2 win. Derick Brassard scored twice and the Rangers were 1-5 on the power play. Henrik Lundqvist made 19 saves for the win.

One of the moves that helped spark the Ducks’ run was trading for David Perron, shipping Carl Hagelin to the Penguins. Both teams have benefitted from the move, but The Ducks have gotten a lot of production out of Perron. In 25 games he’s collected 19 points (8-11-19), which is more than what he had in Pittsburgh in 43 games. He’s fit in really nicely alongside Ryan Getzlaf on the top line and he’s injected some life into the Anaheim lineup.

The Ducks have also seen a lot of growth in one of their better young prospects, Rickard Rakell. The 22 year old Swede has set career highs in goals (18) and points (39), and is one assist shy of tying his career high there as well. Rakell is second on the team in goals and third in points, behind Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He also has six game winning goal and brings a strong, two-way game along with physical play. Rakell will likely skate alongside Perry, who leads the team with 29 goals.

Bruce Boudreau has been starting his goalies in two game stretches, and if that trend continues, John Gibson will start tonight. Frederick Anderson won his last start against the Devils, and is 9-1-1 in his last 11 decisions. But the rookie Gibson has been very good this season, posting a 16-9-3 record along with a .919 save percentage and a 2.23 GAA. He’s lost his last two starts (0-1-1) but has won seven of his last 10 decisions (10-2-1).

For the Rangers, Antti Raanta will be in net against the Ducks, his second career appearance against them. Raanta made 34 saves in his last start, a 4-2 win over Buffalo, and he’s continued to play well as of late. He has allowed two goals or less in four of his last five starts, and the one loss came in that crazy game against the Islanders. Raanta is 8-5-2 with a .912 save percentage and a 2.46 GAA.

While the Rangers are cooling off, Chris Kreider is heating up. At times he has been inconsistent and quiet, but his five goals in the last nine games, including goals in both weekend games, show a move in the right direction. Kreider has also improved in front of the net, and has been much more noticeable on screens, deflections and getting to the dirty areas, which is exactly what the Ranger need from him.

Derick Brassard made his triumphant return to the Rangers lineup on Sunday, scoring a power play goal for the third consecutive game. He leads the team with 25 goals as well as in power play points (8-11-19), where he has formed a formidable pairing with Keith Yandle at the point. Brassard has been reunited with Mats Zuccarello, the team’s leading scorer (22-31-53), and Rick Nash in an attempt to reignite the line that caused so much damage last season.

The Rangers and the Ducks will faceoff at the Honda Center at 10:30 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG+.

EXPECTED LINEUP

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Jesper Fast

JT Miller-Eric Staal-Kevin Hayes

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Viktor Stalberg

Ryan McDonagh-Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Antti Raanta

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Posted on March 16, 2016, in Game Previews, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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