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Mika Zibanejad back in the lineup as the Rangers host the Stars; Hellberg to serve as backup

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-stars

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers (28-15-1) are back at Madison Square Garden tonight, looking to rebound when they battle the Dallas Stars (18-19-8) and snap their two game losing streak.

The Rangers lost both games of their back-to-back over the weekend, coming out flat against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday and succumbing to a meltdown against the Canadiens on Saturday. After Antti Raanta left the game with an injury, Henrik Lundqvist came in and surrendered five goals on 22 shots, as well as three in a span of just over a minute.

The Stars have also lost two straight, including three out of the last four and five losses in their last seven games. It’s been a tough season for them, dealing with a lot of injuries and poor goaltending that has put them near the bottom of the Western Conference.

This is the second and final matchup between these two teams this season and the only one at MSG. The Rangers beat the Stars, 2-0, on Dec. 15 thanks to a “shared” shutout from Lundqvist and Raanta and a shorthanded game-winning goal from Rick Nash in the third period.

Whether it’s Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi in net for Dallas, neither have been able to give the team consistent results. The two combine for a $10.4 million cap hit which is disappointing when you look at their numbers. Lehtonen is 9-12-4 with a 2.88 GAA and a .898 save percentage while Niemi is 9-7-4 with a 2.98 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

Despite the team’s poor record, Tyler Seguin is enjoying another successful year. He leads the team in goals (16), assists (27) and points (43), anchoring the top line alongside Jamie Benn. He’s just 24 and consistently one of the best offensive players in the entire league. Seguin has four points (2-2-4) in his last five games.

One of the most surprising performers on Dallas this season has been Patrick Eaves, a career bottom-six guy who has made a living out of penalty killing, strong three-zone hockey and respectable point production. This season, he’s playing on the wing on the top line and he’s scoring more goals and staying healthy. Eaves has 15 goals, more than Jamie Benn, and 24 points overall. He hasn’t played more than 60 games since 2010-11, but he’s played in all but one game for Dallas this year, and is having a much bigger impact this season.

The Rangers will go with Henrik Lundqvist in net. With Raanta injured for the next week or so, we can expect Lundqvist to get all of the starts until the All Star Game. Lundqvist is 18-11-1 with a 2.72 GAA and just a .907 save percentage. He’s given up 25 goals in the last seven games and has not been playing all too well. This stretch presents an opportunity for him to get a steady workload and not have to worry about a backup potentially taking his job. He has to turn this around, for the team’s sake and his own.

JT Miller scored a shorthanded goal, his third of the season, against Montreal to extend his point streak to seven games. He’s scored 10 points (5-5-10) in that span and is one point behind Stepan and Hayes for the team lead in points. He’s been a huge reason for the team managing to stay afloat in the Metropolitan Division despite all of the injuries the Rangers have faces.

Mika Zibanejad will be back in the lineup tonight, marking his first game since he broke his leg on Nov. 20. He was playing well prior to the injury, scoring a goal in his last two games played and recording 15 points (5-10-15) in 19 games. He’ll be centering Rick Nash and Pavel Buchnevich as well as playing on the power play. That’s where he could have his biggest impact. The Rangers will benefit from his skill, production, and being able to spread out the offense again.

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

POTENTIAL LINES

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Rick Nash-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich

Jimmy Vesey-Kevin Hayes-JT Miller

Michael Grabner-Brandon Pirri-Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Brady Skjei-Nick Holden

Adam Clendening-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on January 17, 2017, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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