Pregame Analysis

It’s Game Day! Rangers proving they’re a force in the league again; look for four straight against Blue Jackets

…and just like that it seems Coach Alain Vigneault is off the hot-seat as the Rangers posted back-to-back, heart-racing overtime wins against the Lightning and Panthers to extend their winning streak to three.

Now at 6-7-2 the New York Rangers will look to make it four straight as they face another tough challenge tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets (9-4-1) who are tied for first in the Metropolitan division.

The Rangers are finally finishing on their chances, and though at times the defensive end is shaky, the team is shoring up enough to regain their presence in the league as a legitimate force to reckon with.

Kevin Shattenkirk’s been a key player over the team’s latest run as he has proven his signing by the Rangers’ brass was truly worth it. Shattenkirk is coming off a two-goal performance against Florida, and has logged six points in his last four games.

The veterans like Shattenkirk, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, and Mika Zibanejad have been crucial in leading the team out of their struggles.

The Jackets are finding support from the opposite end as Rangers’ former head coach John Tortorella has been getting the most out of his less experienced players — the team is largely led by the offensive contributions of their youth.

The Jackets have five players that are 23-years-old or younger with at least 8 points.

The newest Columbus star Artemi Panarin was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in the offseason, and though he has just one goal this season, he has led the team with ten assists.

Players to watch

Rick Nash had just one point in his first eleven games, but now has five in his last four

The former Blue Jackets captain, Rick Nash always seems to have a bit of an extra jump to his game when he plays his former team. He has been one of the leaders in shots this season in the league and has generated just as many scoring chances as the Rangers’ leading scorer Mika Zibanejad. Despite him being on par in chances, it’s only been the last few games where Nash has been rewarded on the scoreboard for his efforts.

Nash has five points in his last five games and only five points total on the season. His luck seems to be turning and the veteran power-forward’s presence alone can open up chances for his line-mates Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes.

The Denmark-native Oliver Bjorkstrand has quickly developed chemistry with Matt Calvert and Alex Wennberg

Oliver Bjorkstrand may technically be on Columbus’ third-line, but his play suggests him to be more of a top-6 forward as he is second on the team in goals. The 22-year-old split time between the AHL and NHL last season, but thus far he has solidified himself as an NHLer going forward.

Bjorkstrand plays alongside another young, up-coming star for Columbus — Alex Wennberg who has served as a solid playmaker on their line.

Watch for these two tonight as the defensive matchups that Vigneault elects to use against them will be a key factor in determining who gets the advantage in this contest.

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