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Rangers battle the Ottawa Senators; Lundqvist OUT for tonight with illness

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-senators

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After a much needed three-day Christmas break, the Rangers (23-12-1) are back in action at MSG tonight, taking on Derick Brassard and the Ottawa Senators (20-11-2), who are riding a four game win streak.

To say the Rangers struggled in the two games before the brief break is an understatement, with the team giving up seven goals in both of their games and continuing their trend of a diminishing offense. After a start to the season that saw New York score four or five goals in almost every game, their shooting percentage is dipping back to normal, offense is drying up with the injuries and numbers are starting to look more realistic.

Ottawa however, are looking to extend their win streak and continue to fight for the top spot in the Atlantic, where they trail the Canadiens by three points. While both teams have allowed 89 goals so far, Ottawa is only averaging 2.59 goals per game, while the Rangers have scored 3.31 goals per game.

With Craig Anderson on personal leave and Andrew Hammond struggling to stay healthy, Mike Condon is the guy in net for the time being. Condon started 51 games with Montreal last season with Carey Price injured, but his numbers are looking much better so far with the Senators. So far, he’s 8-3-2 in 14 appearances (12 starts) along with a 2.26 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

Erik Karlsson is still scoring at a remarkable rate, already tallying seven goals and 31 points from the blue line, which is second to only Brent Burns in the league. He scored 82 points in 82 games last season, and has tallied 416 points in just 513 NHL games. One of the best passers and offensive defenseman in the league, Karlsson is always a force to be reckoned with.

Ryan Dzingel had his first NHL stint last season, playing in 30 games and scoring three goals and nine points, but he’s played well enough this season to be a full-time member of the Senators and a top six forward. Dzingel has been skating on the second line with Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan. So far, he’s third on the team in goals with eight goals, also tallying 11 assists. He scored in their last game against Anaheim and has shown some real promise and skill.

The Rangers are starting to struggle a bit, scoring just 13 goals in their last six games and having the defense fall apart. Both Pittsburgh and Minnesota scored seven goals in each of the last two games against New York, with Minnesota scoring five in the second period. A combination of little offensive pressure, atrocious defense and some goalie struggles has exposed some of the problems with the Rangers.

At the morning skate today, Henrik Lundqvist was not on the ice as a result of the flu. He will not be available tonight, and Antti Raanta will get the start. Raanta allowed seven goals against Pittsburgh but he wasn’t the one who played bad. Uncovered Penguins and poor coverage meant Raanta had almost no chance on many of the shots he faced. He still made 40 saves because the defense was that porous. However, he still has an impressive 8-4-0 record with a 2.17 GAA and a .926 save percentage.

No backup goalie has been named at this time.

After dealing with a few injuries and missing some games, Chris Kreider is back and playing very well. He scored two goals and had an assist against Minnesota, playing with Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello on the only line that actually had an impact. Kreider now has 11 goals and four points (3-1-4) in his last three games. With Nash, Zibanejad and Buchnevich all still injured, Kreider has to be the go-to-guy.

Brady Skjei was scratched against Minnesota in favor of Adam Clendening, supposedly because of the way he handled a late game shift against the Penguins that saw Nick Bonino score with four seconds left. Skjei has been a very solid option this season despite being stuck to the third pairing. With Dan Girardi struggling to handle top-pairing minutes, it would be nice to see Skjei on the right side on top pairing like he was last year during the playoffs against Pittsburgh and in the AHL. However, he still has been a good player in the minutes he has received and a solid point producer (1-14-15).

The Rangers and the Senators will faceoff tonight atMadison Square Garden at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

POTENTIAL LINES

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Michael Grabner-Kevin Hayes-JT Miller

Jimmy Vesey-Oscar Lindberg-Jesper Fast

Matt Puempel-Marek Hrivik-Brandon Pirri

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Nick Holden

Brady Skjei-Kevin Klein

Antti Raanta

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Posted on December 27, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It’s a real shame Nash has been hurt on and off this year cause when he’s in he’s been playing hard and is clearly the best player on the ice. I can’t wait to see the team we opened up the season with again. I’m very concerned about Buchnevich. Back problems are no joke. One thing they could do more of no matter who they have out there is get back to the forechecking they were doing when the season started. They were constantly in guys faces pressuring them and creating some turnovers once in a while. If you got a speed team then use the speed any way you can.

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