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Lundqvist and Co. look to get on track and snap losing streak tonight against Toronto

Bobby Bevilacqua

derek-stepan-board-battle-1-13

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The Rangers (28-16-1) hit a low point during their loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, not showing up for the first 40 minutes, playing horrible defense and not getting great goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist. They’ll need to turn it around quickly when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs (21-13-8) on the road tonight.

The Rangers’ last game was the epitome of what the team is this season – a high-octane offensive powerhouse with a porous defense, a struggling star goalie and a coach unwilling to make changes and adjustments. The offense essentially tries to outscore the defense every game and it doesn’t work. Vigneault continues to give big minutes to Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein despite their consistent inability to handle that work, and adjustments to the pairings, personnel or defensive schemes remain the same. And therein lies the problem.

On the other hand, the Maple Leafs are enjoying a successful second season under Mike Babcock, integrating all of their young talent and sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division, tied with the Ottawa Senators in points and one point ahead of the Florida Panthers despite playing five fewer games than them.

Tonight’s game is the second of three meetings between the Rangers and Maple Leafs this season, and the first of two games in Toronto. The Maple Leafs won the first game, 4-2, last week and never trailed in the game. Chris Kreider and JT Miller scored the goals, although Miller’s goal didn’t come until the very end of the game. The Rangers came out flat and Toronto capitalized.

Frederik Anderson is the likely starter for Toronto. Anderson made 34 saves in the win over the Rangers and picked up a win in his last start over the Sabres. Anderson is 19-9-7 with a 2.67 GAA and a .918 save percentage in 35 appearances.

Auston Matthews continues to be the best player on the Maple Leafs in his rookie season, leading the team with 22 goals and 38 points. He scored in the team’s last game against Buffalo, giving him four points (2-2-4) in his last five games. Matthews is a threat to score wherever and whenever he is on the ice.

James van Riemsdyk scored on the power play in the last matchup, and looks to be back on track for another productive season. He was limited to just 40 games last season but has appeared in every game this year as well as sitting in second on the team in scoring with 36 points (16-20-36).

Henrik Lundqvist will get the start for the Rangers. It’s been rough for Lundqvist, allowing 32 goals in the last eight games and seeing his save percentage plummet to a .902 and his GAA rise to a 2.89. With Antti Raanta injured, Alain Vigneault will give Lundqvist every chance to work out of his funk, which needs to happen soon.

Pavel Buchnevich is in the midst of a pretty impressive scoring streak. Since coming back from his back spasms, Buchnevich has recorded five points (1-4-5) in the last three games, and he also extended his point streak to seven games, with 10 points (5-5-10) in that span. Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad show incredible chemistry together and could wind up being a dynamic scoring duo for years to come. The two combined for five points (3-2-5) against the Stars, and Rick Nash is an excellent complementary piece to the line. Look for Buchnevich to extend his point streak tonight.

Brady Skjei was partnered with Adam Clendening in practice, and that pairing could wind up getting some good offensive opportunities with their sheltered minutes. Clendening has shown signs of being a solid puck mover while Brady Skjei was racking up assists earlier in the year. With mostly offensive shifts and some power play time, these two could wind up getting some good chances.

The Rangers and the Maple Leafs will faceoff at the Air Canade Centre at 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on MSG.

EXPECTED LINES

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Rick Nash-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich

Michael Grabner-Kevin Hayes-JT Miller

Jimmy Vesey-Oscar Lindberg-Brandon Pirri

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Nick Holden-Kevin Klein

Brady Skjei-Adam Clendening

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on January 19, 2017, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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