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Rangers head back home to battle the Lightning; Kreider doubtful

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-lightning-5-22

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After a brief stop in Carolina that resulted in a 3-2 loss, the Rangers (5-3-0) look to get back to their winning ways when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning (5-3-0) at Madison Square Garden.

In that loss to Carolina, Mats Zuccarello scored both Rangers goals, giving him four this season. Pavel Buchnevich recorded an assist in his first game back from back spasms, and Ryan McDonagh also tallied an assist, on a marvelous stretch pass, to extend his six game point streak. Mika Zibanajad’s assist kept him at a point-per-game pace through eight games (2-6-8).

The Lightning played last night in Newark, falling to the Devils by a score of 3-1. Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed three goals on 20 shots and the team’s lone goal came from Tyler Johnson. Tampa Bay has had trouble with starting slow, and that happened again when they gave up two goals in the first period to New Jersey.

This is the first of three games between the Rangers and Lightning, and the first of two at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers won the season series last year with a 2-1-0 record, winning the only game at MSG. Of current Rangers, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello each led the way with three points, while Stepan led with two goals.

Both teams this year have been tremendous offensively but have given up a lot of goals as well. The Lightning have scored 26 goals but haven given up 23, while the Rangers are near the top of the league with 29 goals for while giving up 21. This could be a very fast paced, high scoring game.

Ben Bishop is expected to get the start in net as Tampa Bay finishes off their back-to-back series. Bishop is one of many NHL goalies who is statistically struggling to start the year, as he owns a 3.22 GAA and a .891 save percentage on the season through five games. He does have a 3-2-0 record, but that may be due to the team’s offensive success. Bishop has dominated the Rangers in his career so things might be tough for New York.

Despite all of the rumors that surrounded him this offseason, Steven Stamkos decided to sign a long term contract to stay in Tampa Bay and remain the captain. One of the best players in the NHL is off to a good start again this season, leading the team nine points and sitting in second with five goals. He played in two games against the Rangers last season, not scoring a point and registering as a -4.

Jonathan Drouin is a fixture in the Tampa Bay lineup now, which is surprising considering last year’s events. After refusing to report to the AHL and requesting a trade, Drouin eventually found his way onto the playoff roster and wound up playing extremely well, scoring 14 points (5-9-14) in 17 games. This year, he has five points (2-3-0) to start the year and has looked both extremely dangerous and very comfortable in the Lightning’s system.

As for the Rangers, Chris Kreider was skating on his own the other day prior to practice but remains doubtful to tonight with neck spasms. He last played on October 22 against Washington.

It’s unknown who will start in net for the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist started in Carolina and struggled, allowing three goals on the first 14 shots he faced and finished with 18 saves. Antti Raanta has started just one game and allowed four goals in the win. Alain Vigneault has talked about limiting Lundqivst’s starts and using Raanta more but has not done that this season. Tonight would be a good time to give Raanta a shot in goal.

Jimmy Vesey has been one of the most exciting Rangers to watch, as the rookie continues to look more and more comfortable and NHL ready with each passing game. He’s had success on a line with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, and has scored four goals in his first eight games. Vesey will look to get back on the scoresheet tonight and help spark the performances of Nash and Stepan.

Ryan McDonagh has looked absolutely tremendous this season, with seven points, all assists, through the team’s first eight games, his offensive side of things definitely looks to have improved. He’s playing well defensively, playing all three strengths, and his passing and transition game is the best among all Rangers defensemen. He’ll need to be counted on heavily tonight, both to shut down the Lightning’s explosive offense and to help spark scoring at the other end.

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

POTENTIAL LINES

Jimmy Vesey-Rick Nash-Derek Stepan

Pavel Buchnevich-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

JT Miller-Kevin Hayes-Jesper Fast

Brandon Pirri-Oscar Lindberg-Michael Grabner

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Kevin Klein

Brady Skjei-Nick Holden

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Posted on October 30, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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