Rangers look to rebound against the Hurricanes; Grabner and Miller questionable

Bobby Bevilacqua


Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After a disappointing effort against the Senators in which the Rangers (15-7-1) could not get anything going offensively, Alain Vigneault and his squad will look to pick up a much needed rebound win over the Carolina Hurricanes (9-8-4) tonight at MSG.

The Rangers are coming off of a shutout loss, while the Hurricanes are coming off of a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. It’s been a long rebuild process for the Canes, but every year it seems that they’re becoming more and more competitive. They scored three unanswered goals and got 31 saves from Michael Leighton for his first NHL win since 2010.

The Rangers are showing signs of regressing to their 2015-16 form, with defensive issues, little possession and scoring chances and too much reliance on the goaltender. They’ve won just two of their last six games and are dealing with injuries and some other issues. Given that it’s only 23 games into the season, there’s still time to get out of this funk and a win tonight would be big.

This is the second of four games between these two teams and the first at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers lost the first game, 3-2, on Oct. 28, with both goals coming from Mats Zuccarello. New York has won their last 11 home games against Carolina, and 19 of their last 22 games against them.

Cam Ward will likely be in net tonight. Ward has been stellar lately, named one of the NHL stars of the week after winning three straight starts from Nov. 18 to 22, allowing just four goals in those games. Ward has allowed two goals or less in his last five starts and is finally providing the Hurricanes with the stability they have lacked in net. Ward made 28 saves in the win against the Rangers on Oct. 28, and is 7-6-3 with a 2.24 GAA and a .918 save percentage.

Jeff Skinner scored two goals against the Rangers in the first game of the season series, and he’s showing signs of the player that won the Calder Trophy for the 2010-11 season. So far, he’s netted nine goals and 10 assists for a team high 19 points in 20 games. Skinner is a dangerous scorer and will be Carolina’s go-to guy.

Lee Stempniak got off to a hot start, scoring four goals and six points in the team’s first five games. However, he has just four points and no goals in the last 16 games. Last year, he was exceptional playing on the Devils and showed that he can thrive in a top six role. He’s bound to break out of his funk eventually, so we’ll see what happens tonight.

Henrik Lundqvist is back in net after getting the night off against Ottawa. Lundqvist’s last start was a spectacular 40 save effort in a win over the Flyers. So far, he is 10-6-1 with a 2.43 GAA and a .915 save percentage.

JT Miller is questionable with a knee issue, but likely to go, with Alain Vigneault saying that he has a 90% chance of playing. Michael Grabner is feeling under the weather, so we’ll know around 4 or 5 tonight if he will be playing.

If both of those players are unable to go, then a lot of the offensive burden will fall on Kevin Hayes. Hayes is tied for the team lead with 19 points (10-9-19), and has grown and developed into quite an impressive all-around player. As a playmaker, a goal scorer, and a defensive presence, he has improved in all areas and is a focal point of this team with Mika Zibanejad out.

Mats Zuccarello was arguably the team’s best forward last season, maybe the last two seasons, but it’s been a slow two weeks for him, with no goals and two assists in the last six games. Zuccarello has been a bit quiet and unnoticeable lately, and the team needs him to step up during this slump. Hopefully his performance in the last game against Carolina carries over to tonight.

The Rangers and the Hurricanes will faceoff at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.


Posted on November 29, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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