Henrik Lundqvist will again get the start as the Rangers will host the Ottawa Senators tonight in their first game against each other since the playoff series that ended in Ottawa’s favor last season.
After the 2-5-2 start, a six-game winning streak, and now a two-game skid in which they’ve fallen to the Bluejackets and the Blackhawks — the Rangers are showing a trend… of not being able to follow a trend.
The Blueshirts need to find true consistency and even when considering their incredibly impressive win-streak, there has still been a deep-rooted defensive concern with this team.
Forcing Henrik Lundqvist to stand on his head on a regular basis may have been a formidable strategy five years ago, but as the veteran net-minder ages, his ability to make up for the defensive gaffes of the team is severely limited.
Head Coach Alain Vigneault’s struggles with defensive adjustments has hurt the team thus far in 2017. However, playing against a demoralized Ottawa Senators team coming off a 3-2 OT loss to the last-place Arizona Coyotes, the Rangers will have the opportunity to get things right back on track.
Players to watch
Michael Grabner may be playing on the third line, but he has shown a surprising knack for the net again — even after many critics and fans alike were expecting his play this season to slow significantly relative to his 30-goal season a year ago. Grabner is currently tied for second on the team in goals with 8 in 20 games. Now with Mats Zuccarello and his 11 assists accompanying him and J.T. Miller (back at center) on the third line, there is even higher chance the Grabner continues to light the lamp.
His speed will be crucial both in 5v5 action and on the penalty kill as the Rangers try to match the fast-paced offense of the Senators.
Matt Duchene had all sorts of swirling controversy around his name in Colorado, and after the three-way trade that led to Duchene suiting up with the Ottawa Senators last week, he has gone without a point in four straight games. The Senators gave up Kyle Turris in the deal, and there is an expectation for the 26-year old center to not only contribute what is lost by Turris, but a heck of a lot more.
Thus-far he has not done so, but with 20 shots in his last four games, and a weak New York Rangers defense to go against the Blueshirts may have to ask Lundqvist to make more than one strong stop against Duchene.
Kreider – Zibanejad – Buchnevich
Nash – Hayes – Fast
Grabner – Miller – Zuccarello
Vesey – Nieves – Carey
McDonagh – Holden
Skjei – Shattenkirk
Staal – Smith
Paul Carey: Dressed