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Rangers close out Cali road trip against the San Jose Sharks

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs Sharks

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Following a disappointing loss at the hands of the LA Kings, blowing another third period lead, the Rangers (40-23-8) will finish off their three game road trip against the San Jose Sharks (39-25-6) at the SAP Center.

On Thursday, the Rangers took a 3-1 lead into the third period against the Los Angeles Kings. One of the goals looked as if there could have been goaltender interference (but the NHL still doesn’t have a standard for it), and the other goal came from Anze Kopitar with less than five minutes to play. In overtime, Kopitar scored the game winner, and the Rangers threw away a win.

If you told me before the road trip started that the Rangers would get three out of four points against the Ducks and Kings, I would have been thrilled. But it’s the way in which they lost the point that frustrates me. This team is fragile and there’s no other way of saying it. They’re mentally fragile and often fall apart in adversity. They have given up 15 goals that have tied the game or given the other team the lead with five minutes or less to play in the game. And they’ve been playing horribly lately, generating no possession, unable to transition or carry the puck through the neutral zone, and they’ve been getting heavily outshot. Anyone who isn’t worried about this team, should be.

The San Jose Sharks open up a six game homestand tonight, and they’ll play nine out of the last 12 games at the SAP Center, where they are 14-15-3 this season. Their road record (25-10-3) has salvaged their record and kept them in a playoff spot. San Jose has won five of their last eight games (5-3-0).

This is the second and final matchup between the Rangers and Sharks this season, and the only one in California. Back on October 19th, the Rangers skated away with a 4-0 victory, with Antti Raanta stopping all 22 shots. Marc Staal and Jesper Fast each had a goal and an assist, while Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg also found the back of the net.

After losing the captaincy, Joe Thornton has rebounded with another fantastic season. The 36 year old center is still racking up points and is arguably the best passer in the entire league. His 52 assists are good enough for fourth in the entire league. He’s also added 16 goals, scoring at a very good clip. Thornton is in the midst of a three game point streak (1-3-4), and he has 12 points (2-10-12) in the last 10 games, 17 points (4-13-17) in the last 13 games, and 27 points (7-20-27) in the last 21 games.

Brent Burns has played forward in his career, but he’s been performing better and scoring more as a defenseman. Burns is third on the team in scoring with 64 points (26-38-64), and his 26 goals are behind only Joe Pavelski. Burns tied the franchise record for goals by a defenseman and will look to continue his recent success, with five points (3-2-5) in the last five games. Coupled with Thornton and Pavelski, Burns has been lethal from the point on the power play, leading the team with 18 PPA and 25 PPP.

Martin Jones is the expected starter for the Sharks. Jones has enjoyed a successful first season as a starting goaltender, winning 34 games and posting a .918 save percentage and a 2.28 GAA. Jones has allowed two goals or fewer in each of his last eight starts.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to be back between the pipes for the Rangers, looking to rebound after allowing four goals on 37 shots against the Kings. Lundqvist has had a heavy workload lately, facing 35 shots or more in four of his last six starts, but still getting five out of eight possible points from those games. However, Lundqvist has allowed 14 goals in the last four games and will look for a better performance and a win tonight.

Eric Staal has been centering a line with JT Miller and Kevin Hayes, and it’s been working very well. Hayes and Miller each scored against the Kings, and Staal should have had an assist on Miller’s goal. Either way, Vigneault seems to have found a good combination and some chemistry here. Staal will be looking to bring more offense to the Rangers moving forward, and he should be able to do it with this line.

JT Miller was playing timid for a while after going through a long slump. But he looked rejuvenated after scoring his goal in the last game, which was his first non-empty netter in 18 games. Miller now has four points (1-3-4) in the last three games.

The Rangers and the Sharks will faceoff at the SAP Center at 4 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG+.

EXPECTED LINES

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

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on March 19, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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