Rangers look to rebound and snap Minnesota’s nine game winning streak
Following a beat down at the hands of Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers (23-11-1) face another tough opponent before they close out their pre-Christmas schedule, a home matchup against the red-hot Minnesota Wild (20-8-4), winners of nine straight games.
The Rangers played Pittsburg on Tuesday, their ninth game in 15 days, and got pummeled in every aspect imaginable. Antti Raanta was unsupported by his teammates, the defense was atrocious, and the offensive struggles continued.
For Minnesota, everything has been going right. Last night they took down the Montreal Canadiens, Devan Dubnyk stopped 25 of the 26 shots that he faced, improving his record to 17-6-3 with a 1.57 GAA and a .948 save percentage. Eric Staal scored the game winner, a shorthanded goal in the third period.
This is the first of two matchups between the Rangers and the Wild this season, and the only one at Madison Square Garden. Last season, they each won once, with the home team winning each time. The Rangers have won five of their last seven games against Minnesota, and seven of nine all-time games at MSG.
Since Dubnyk started last night, there’s a good chance that Darcy Kuemper gets the start tonight. Kuemper has only started six games, and has posted a 3-2-1 record with a 2.97 GAA with a .907 save percentage. His last start was on Deceember 17th, where he allowed just one goal on 28 shots in a win. However, the Wild do tend to start Dubnyk frequently and on back-to-backs, so there’s still a chance of that happening.
Last season, Jeff Gorton traded for Eric Staal at the trade deadline, hoping to bolster the offense and make a run in the playoffs. However, it didn’t work. Eric Staal had little to no impact with the Rangers, but it was also because of how Alain Vigneault misused him, dreadfully. Instead of Staal centering someone like Rick Nash, AV had him on the wing, playing mostly with Kevin Hayes, Jesper Fast and Viktod Stalberg. It’s not surprising that he didn’t play up to potential. With a bigger role in Minnesota, Staal is thriving, with a team-high 11 goals and 26 points in 32 games.
Ryan Suter has been a workhorse defenseman ever since he joined the Wild. He’s averaging over 27 minutes a game, which is actually two minute lower than his average from the 2014-15 season. On top of that, he’s a good offensive contributor, with 19 points (5-14-19) in 32 games this season, and 51 points last season.
After getting Tuesday night off, Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start tonight for the Rangers. He’s won his last three starts, allowing three goals during that streak. For his career against the Wild at MSG, he’s 4-1-0 with a 2.22 GAA.
At practice yesterday, Alain Vigneault was giving Adam Clendening some time with the regular team. There’s a shot that he plays tonight, but nothing was confirmed and AV didn’t say who it would be for if he does get in. But after an abysmal defensive effort on Tuesday, Clendening might get a chance to prove his worth.
The Rangers are pretty thin at offense right now. Rick Nash, Pavel Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad are all sidelined with injuries. To make things worse, other players haven’t picked up the scoring slack. Kevin Hayes is one of those players as of late. After starting the season on a tear, Hayes has cooled down considerably as of late, scoring just one goal and three assists in the last 13 games. He needs to start scoring now if the Rangers want to win consistently.
JT Miller is another player who has been lackluster lately, going scoreless in his last five games and scoring just once in the last month. He enters tonight’s game with a three game point streak against the Wild, with two goals and two assists in that span. He’ll be needed to provide a spark tonight.
The Rangers and the Wild will faceoff at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.
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Posted on December 23, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged Antti Raanta, Buchnevich injury, Buchnevich update, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Devan Dubnyk, Eric Staal, Henrik Lundqvist, Hockey, JT Miller, Kevin Hayes, Mats Zuccarello, Minnesota Wild, Nash injury, New York, New York Rangers, New York Rangers blog, NHL, NYR, NYR blog, Pominville, Rangers, Rangers blog, Rangers defense, Rangers lines, Rangers lineup, Rangers preview, Rangers vs Wild, Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Zibanejad injury, Zibanejad update. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.