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Kreider back in the lineup against the Blues; AV switches lines for speed, skill

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-blues-10-15

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

For the first time in four games, the Rangers (6-3-0) will play with Chris Kreider in the lineup as they take on the St. Louis Blues (5-2-2) tonight at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers are coming off of an impressive victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring six goals and being led by Michael Grabner, who had a hat trick, as well as the rest of the third line in Kevin Hayes and JT Miller, who each had three points. Antti Raanta made 31 saves for his second win of the season.

The Rangers’ offense has been buzzing without Chris Kreider, but now the forward group gets even more dangerous and deep with him back in the lineup tonight. He started out the season red hot, scoring three goals and seven points in each of his first five games.

This is the second and final game between the Rangers and Blues this season after St. Louis won at home, 3-2, about two weeks ago. Kreider and Zibanejad were the Rangers goal scorers, while Vladimir Tarasenko, Paul Stastny and Alex Pietrangelo scored for St. Louis. The Rangers outshot the Blues 15-0 in the third period and had 35 shots on goal in the game, but Carter Hutton was spectacular in his Blues debut. St. Louis has won four of the last five meetings and have earned points in nine of their last 10 trips to MSG.

Obviously the player to watch is always going to be Vladimir Tarasenko. He’s leading the team with four goals and nine points and like Alex Ovechkin, is a threat to score whenever he is on the ice, no matter the defense, the situation or the players on the ice with him.

Alexander Steen has been one of the more consistent scorers for St. Louis, posting over 50 points three seasons in a row despite seeing his goal scoring numbers dip. He’s just three years removed from a 33 goal season but scored only 17 last year. So far he has two goals and seven points in nine games and is one goal shy of 200 for his career.

After the six goal performance against the Lightning, the Rangers have scored a total of 35 goals in the nine games this season, tying them for the most goals scored in the league so far. Their 3.89 goals per game is tops in the league, their +13 goal differential is tied for second in the league, and the Rangers are the only team in the league with seven players that have scored three or more goals.

The Rangers have also had a lot of success at home, playing six of their nine games there this season. So far they are 5-1-0 at MSG, losing only to the Detroit Red Wings. They’ve outscored opponents 27-14, which is the most amount of goals in the first six home games since 1992-93, and they’ve earned a point in 66 of their last 86 home games dating back to Oct. 16, 2014.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in net. His last start was in a loss against Carolina last Friday, allowing three goals on 21 shots against. Lundqvist is 4-3-0 with a 2.45 GAA and a .901 save percentage.

Chris Kreider is going to be the main player to watch in tonight’s game as he rejoins the lineup for the first time in four games. He’ll play on the second line with Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello, which has the making of a dynamic line. Kreider and Zibanejad have played extremely well together, and Zuccarello is playing with as much confidence and skill as ever. I wouldn’t be surprised in Kreider gets back on the scoresheet tonight.

Ryan McDonagh is off to a fantastic start, picking up a point in seven consecutive games and tallying eight points, all assists, in the nine games. He’s also been playing a lot of minutes, averaging nearly 25 minutes of ice time a night and handling it very well. His offensive and passing game looks drastically improved, and he’ll be looking to continue his point streak tonight.

Alain Vigneault had to shuffle the lines with everyone healthy again, and it looks like Oscar Lindberg will be the healthy scratch. Pavel Buchnevich is on the “fourth” line (by name only) with Brandon Pirri and Jesper Fast, because AV said you need four lines with speed and skill against a team like the Blues. I like this shift in mentality from him, and I really like how the Rangers will be dangerous no matter what player is on the ice.

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

EXPECTED LINES

Jimmy Vesey-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash

Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Mats Zuccarello

Michael Grabner-Kevin Hayes-JT Miller

Pavel Buchnevich-Brandon Pirri-Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Nick Holden

Brady Skjei-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on November 1, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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