Rangers back home to take on the Sharks; McIlrath in for Girardi

Bobby Bevilacqua


Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

UPDATE: Pavel Buchnevich will not play tonight along with Dan Girardi. Read on for details.

Following a fantastic offensive effort in a game against the St. Louis Blues, the Rangers (1-1-0) are back at Madison Square Garden for four of the next five games, starting tonight against last year’s Western Conference Champs, the San Jose Sharks (2-0-0).

The teams split the two meetings last season, with the home team winning each game. The Rangers shut out the Sharks 4-0 on October 19 and San Jose won 4-1 at the SAP Center. Marc Staal, Jesper Fast, Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg scored in the shutout win with Antti Raanta in net, while Dan Boyle was the only Ranger to score in the road loss. Joel Ward had two goals while Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski both scored once.

The Sharks have gotten off to a good start following their magical run to their first ever Stanley Cup Final appearance. Martin Jones has allowed three goals in 120 minutes, the defense looks good and Brent Burns and Joe Logan Couture have already started scoring.

Jones was fantastic last year in his first year as a starting goaltender, winning 37 games, posting a 2.27 GAA as well as a .918 save percentage. He followed that up with an even better performance in the playoffs, with 14 wins, a 2.16 GAA and a .923 save percentage. Jones is capable of stealing wins away and he’s been great this season.

Brent Burns in the most dangerous player on the Sharks. Last year he set a career high in goals (27), assists (48) and points (75) as well as earning a nomination for the Norris Trophy. He also logged 24 points (7-17-24) in 24 playoff games. There’s nothing Brent Burns can’t do and he’ll hurt you in numerous ways, so the Rangers need to keep an eye out for him.

The other MVP in the playoffs for the Sharks was Logan Couture, who tallied an incredible 30 points (10-20-30) in the 24 playoff games. You rarely see those kind of numbers, and he could carry that momentum into this season. When healthy, Couture is one of the most dynamic players on the Sharks, and he’s capable of going on a scoring tear. He’s tied with Burns with three points this season and is yet another scorer behind guys like Thornton and Pavelski.

After Lundqvist started the first two games, Alain Vigneault will turn to Antti Raanta tonight. Raanta was a very good backup last season, ending the season strongly and proving capable of taking in a stronger workload. In order to keep Lundqvist fresh, Vigneault will have to turn to Raanta more often and hopefully get him close to 30 starts. 

The Rangers do have some injury concerns in this game. Dan Girardi is out on a day-to-day basis with a groin strain, and the team announced via Twitter that Pavel Buchnevich will not play tonight because of back spasms. Josh Jooris will play while Brandon Pirri hets moved up in the lineup.

It’s been mentioned every single game, but Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad are absolutely fantastic together. Every time they’re on the ice, there’s a threat for them to score and they generate a ton of chances. Kreider looks like a different player, crashing the net with authority and putting himself in good positions to score. Zibanejad is a shifty playmaker with a great shot and he’s been starting a lot of the offense that this line has generated. They’ll be the line to watch yet again.

With Buchnevich injured, Rick Nash gets moved up to the second line. He’s looked pretty good despite not scoring, but playing with Kreider and Zibanejad means he’s going to have the best chance to produce. It would be great for him if he scores early in the season and boosts his confidence.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the game where Jimmy Vesey scores his first NHL goal. One thing that surprised me about him is he’s a blue collar player. He’s got some grit to his game, he’s not afraid to work along the boards and fight for the puck. Vesey had two A+ scoring chances against the Blues but did not convert. If he gets those same chances tonight, he’ll put them away.

With Girardi is out and Klein still injured, Dylan McIlrath is the only spare defenseman. Tonight is a big chance for him to try and secure a roster spot following a strong preseason showing.

The Rangers and the Sharks will face off at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on MSG.

EXPECTED LINEUP (Defense pairs expected to change)

Jimmy Vesey-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Rick Nash

JT Miller-Kevin Hayes-Jesper Fast

Michael Grabner-Josh Jooris-Brandon Pirri

Ryan McDonagh-Nick Holden

Marc Staal-Adam Clendening

Brady Skjei-Dylan McIlrath

Antti Raanta

Posted on October 17, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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