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Kreider expected to return as the Rangers take on the Blue Jackets

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-blue-jackets-2-29

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Following a stretch of three games in Canada that all resulted in wins, the Rangers (13-4-0) will look to keep on rolling and sweep their four game win streak as they head to Columbus tonight to take on the Blue Jackets (8-4-2).

The Rangers most recent victory was a 7-2 thrashing over the Canucks, with JT Miller and Kevin Hayes each scoring a pair of goals, and Mats Zuccarello recording a three point night. Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves to improve to 8-1-0 in his last nine starts and 9-4-0 this season.

The Blue Jackets have won three of their last four games, including an 8-4 win over the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 12. They also dominated the Canadiens in a 10-0 win back on Nov. 4, the only team to score 10 goals in a game. Columbus has scored 47 goals this season, but 18 of them have come in two games. So despite their good record, they have had some issues scoring goals at times.

This is the first of five meetings between these two teams this season, and the first of three that will take place in Columbus. The Rangers swept the season series last year, going 4-0-0 and scoring four or more goals in three of the games. Mats Zuccarello led all skaters with four goals in the four games, and Derek Stepan led all skaters with five points (3-2-0). Henrik Lundqvist was great in his three appearances, with a 2.00 GAA and a .941 save percentage. New York has won the last seven games against the Blue Jackets.

Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to get the start tonight for the Jackets. When healthy, he’s one of the top goalies in the league, capable of singlehandedly stealing games and keeping his team in every contest. He’s won four of his last five games, allowing 11 goals in that span with one shutout. This season he is 8-4-1 with a 2.22 GAA and a .933 save percentage.

With the plethora of impressive rookies around the league, Zach Werenski has been overshadowed a bit. The 19-year-old was drafted eighth overall in the 2015 NHL draft and made his debut this season. He’s quickly earned top-pairing status, partially because of Seth Jones’ injury, but that’s impressive given how tough John Tortorella can be on rookies at times. Werenski has scored 13 points (5-8-13) in 14 games, including a goal in two straight.

Nick Foligno had a tough first season as Blue Jackets captain, seeing his point total dip from 73 to 37 in a very frustrating season for Columbus. But he seems to be back on track, with 16 points (6-10-16) in the team’s 14 games to start the season. His 31 goal, 73 point season is a big outlier, and he hasn’t really proven that he can be that player every season. But he’s off to a good start this season.

The Rangers seven goals against the Canucks gave them a total of 72 for the season, which is 15 ahead of second place Philadelphia. Their plus-34 goal differential is tops in the league as well. The Blueshirts have scored five or more goals in nine of their 17 games and continue to be a high octane team.

Henrik Lundqvist will get the start for the Rangers. Lundqvist has won eight of his last nine starts, and will play against a team that he has had a lot of success against. He’s 9-3-1 against the Blue Jackets, with a win in each of his last six appearances dating back to March of 2014. At Nationwide Arena, Lundqvist is 5-1-0 with a 1.67 GAA and a .942 save percentage.

Chris Kreider will return to the Rangers lineup tonight after missing the last two games with an upper body injury, reported by the NY Post as having tests done relating to spinal/cervical issues. When healthy, Kreider has been one of the most effective forwards this season, although there are a lot of them this year. He has three goals and eight assists in 11 games this season, and his speed and strength will be a nice presence in the lineup.

Derek Stepan has always played well against the Blue Jackets in his career. So far, he has 11 points (2-9-11) in 17 games, which is on pace for 53 points. In 13 games against Columbus, Stepan has scored seven goals and 15 points, entering tonight with an eight game point streak against the Jackets, including a three game goal streak.

The Rangers and the Blue Jackets will faceoff at Nationwide Arena at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

EXPECTED LINES

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash

Michael Grabner-Mika Zibanejad-Mats Zuccarello

Jimmy Vesey-Kevin Hayes-JT Miller

Oscar Lindberg-Brandon Pirri-Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Brady Skjei

Nick Holden-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on November 18, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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