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Rangers head to St. Louis for first road game; Klein still out with back strain

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-blues-2-25

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

After an exciting season opening win over the Islanders at home, the New York Rangers (1-0-0) are on the road in St. Louis to take on the Blues (2-0-0) for the team’s first road game of the season.

This is one of just three road games this month for the Rangers, who will return to Madison Square Garden to play five of their next seven games.

The Rangers are looking to win their third straight game against the Blues after sweeping the season series last year. St. Louis has beaten Chicago and Minnesota so far, and are aiming to win their first three games of the season for just the fourth time in franchise history. Over the past six years the Blues have dominated Eastern Conference foes, posting a Western Conference best 84-33-15 record.

Jake Allen has had a good start to the season after taking over as the undisputed starter, but the Blues will start Carter Hutton tonight after he had a fantastic preseason where he went 2-2-1 with a .931 save percentage. Hutton has spent the last three years in Nashville as Pekka Rinne’s backup, and went 7-5-4 with a 2.33 GAA and a .918 save percentage.

Vladimir Tarasenko is one of the best goal scorers in the league, having already accumulated 108 in just 261 games and at the age of 24. Last season he posted career highs in goals (40) and points (34), and then went on to ad nine goals and six assists in 20 playoff games. He’s already scored twice this season, and he’ll be the first true superstar that the Rangers have to defend. We’ll see how that matchup goes.

In the Blues’ last game against the Wild, Nail Yakupov wound up recording his first two points as a Blue, scoring a goal and an assist. Yakupov, 23, was the first overall draft pick in 2012 and has not panned out in Edmonton. St. Louis snatched him away from the Oilers for just a third round pick and a low level prospect. Yakupov has talked to reporters a lot about it and it seems like he was totally lost in Edmonton. They thrust him into the league really early and apparently didn’t develop him properly. Yakupov seems much happier with the Blues and a change of scenery and coaching could be exactly what he needed to get back on track.

Kevin Shattenkirk is second on the team with three points (1-2-3) through two games following a tumultuous summer. Shattenkirk had been rumored to be on the move since the trade deadline, but has not been traded and was named an alternate captain this summer. It doesn’t mean that he isn’t susceptible to a trade, but for now he’s a focal point of the Blues defense. Shattenkirk has scored at least 44 points in the last three seasons and is always a threat on the power play.

The Rangers are not expected to make any lineup changes, which means Henrik Lundqvist is back in goal. Lundqvist had a solid debut, making 25 saves on 28 shots and looking a little shaky at times. But early on in the game he was fantastic, making some huge saves to keep the Islanders off of the board for the first 40 minutes. He’ll need to be at his best against a strong St. Louis team.

Usually I try and highlight specific players to watch, but I’m going to highlight the entire KZB line tonight. Chris Kreider was an absolute monster against the Isles with a goal, an assist and seven shots on goal. Mika Zibanejad had two assists and was a playmaking threat all night long, and Pavel Buchnevich made a phenomenal pass to Kreider on his goal in a strong NHL debut. This line has a lot of promise and they’ll be important again tonight.

Brandon Pirri made his Ranger debut on Thursday against the Islanders, centering the fourth line and playing on the first power play unit. He assisted on the first goal of the game and scored the game winner on the power play. He had a fantastic preseason and is getting the chance that he deserves. The Rangers needed a shoot-first type of player, and Pirri could thrive in that role.

Dan Girardi is going to have to be better than he was on Thursday. It certainly wasn’t his worst performance, but he did look a step behind on a good amount of plays and did an awful job defending on Cal Clutterbuck’s role. The Rangers desperately need him to improve and man the top pairing this season, and a game against the Blues is a real test, especially considering that Kevin Klein is out again.

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

EXPECTED LINEUP

Jimmy Vesey-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich

JT Miller-Kevin Hayes-Rick Nash

Michael Grabner-Brandon Pirri-Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Nick Holden

Brady Skjei-Adam Clendening

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on October 15, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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