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Rangers back in action against Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs; Nash and Buchnevich to play

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-maple-leafs

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Following the league mandated bye-week, the Rangers (28-13-1) return to action when they take on rookie sensation Auston Matthews and the surprisingly solid Toronto Maple Leafs (18-13-8) at Madison Square Garden.

Tonight’s game will be a special one, as the Rangers have asked fans to wear blue for tonight’s game and get in their seats early for a ceremony honoring Det. Steven McDonald, the former NYPD detective who passed away on Jan. 10. The Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award is named after him and given to the player, voted for by the fans, who goes above and beyond the call of duty. He was a special part of the Rangers’ community and the ceremony tonight should be fantastic.

This is the first of three meetings between the Rangers and Maple Leafs, and the only one at MSG. The Rangers swept the season series last year, scoring three or more goals in all three games, and outscored Toronto 11-6. The Rangers have won each of the last four games in this series, and have earned at least a point in 11 of the last 14 games against the Maple Leafs dating back to Jan. 14, 2012 (10-3-1).

The Maple Leafs lost their last game on Jan. 7, but have won five of their last seven games. That’s put them just six points out of the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, and a potential contender for a playoff spot if Mike Babcock can continue to coach this young team to success.

Frederik Anderson has rebounded after a rough start to the season and has provided a much more consistent presence in net than what Toronto had in years past. Anderson was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks and signed to a long-term contract, and he’s responded with a 17-9-7 record along with a 2.69 GAA and a .918 save percentage. Not the greatest numbers, but respectable.

This will be the first time that the Rangers face Auston Matthews, the first overall pick in last year’s draft. He scored four goals in his first ever game and has hit the ground running ever since. He leads the Maple Leafs in scoring with 35 points (21-14-35) and is two points behind Patrik Laine for the rookie lead. Matthews has four goals and seven points in the last five games.

While all of the talk has been about Matthews and Laine, Mitchell Marner has been having a pretty fantastic rookie season himself. The 19 year-old is just three points behind Matthews, having scored 10 goals and 22 points in just 39 games. He recorded three assists in their last game against Montreal, and has six points (2-4-6) in the last five games.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in net for the Rangers tonight. He allowed four goals on 37 shots in the team’s last game against the Blue Jackets, and has had some mixed results lately. Overall, he’s 18-9-1 with a 2.55 GAA and a .912 save percentage. Tonight could be a potentially tough game with some of the talent that Toronto has.

Rick Nash and Pavel Buchnevich will both be returning to the lineup tonight. Nash is “100%” and will play tonight and tomorrow, while Buchnevich will play just tonight and rest tomorrow. However, they’re presence has been missed. Nash has been one of the most dangerous offensive forces on the team, and Buchnevich has shown off some impressive skills in the 10 games he has played. It’ll be exciting to see them both feature in the lineup tonight.

Mats Zuccarello hasn’t had the same type of dynamic season this year as he did when he scored 26 goals and 61 points last year, but he’s still been good and on pace for nearly 60 points again. He hasn’t scored a goal in nearly a month but continues to rack up assists, and is tied for the team lead with 22 helpers. Zuccarello scored three points in all three games against Toronto last season, registering five goals and four assists in those games, and a plus-eight rating. He enters tonight with a five game point streak against the Maple Leafs, and has a multi-point effort in each of the last five contests (8-5-13).

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

EXPECTED LINEUP

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Michael Grabner-Kevin Hayes-JT Miller

Jimmy Vesey-Oscar Lindberg-Rick Nash

Pavel Buchnevich-Brandon Pirri-Jesper Fast (Flu)

Ryan McDonagh-Brady Skjei

Nick Holden-Dan Girardi

Adam Clendening-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on January 13, 2017, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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