Pregame Analysis

Lias Andersson Makes Season Debut Against Montreal

The Rangers seek to extend their longest win streak of the season against the surprising Montreal Canadiens (7:00 p.m. ET, MSG).

Sunday night, the Blueshirts used a 19 second stretch to top the Buffalo Sabres on their return to Madison Square Garden. After a very defensive first period, the Rangers came out and scored two quick goals in the first minute of the period. Neal Pionk got his first goal of the season and just seconds later, Jimmy Vesey received a nice backhand pass from Brett Howden and beat Carter Hutton.

In the third period, Conor Sheary got one back from Buffalo after an atrocious turnover by Brendan Smith behind the goal line. But it wasn’t enough, as that would be the only goal the Sabres would get past Henrik Lundqvist. Vesey added an empty net goal late in the game and extended the Rangers win streak to three. Lundqvist stopped 39 shots and received the first star of the game for another brilliant performance.

It wasn’t all smiles though. Rookie center Brett Howden left the game in the second period and did not return. After the game head coach David Quinn said “Howden suffered an upper-body injury and was held out for precautionary reasons. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Howden won’t play tonight for the Blueshirts but after seeing the replay, he is happy that he didn’t suffer any serious injury. “I didn’t realize I went in that hard,” Howden said. “It happened so fast, the game is so fast. Really lucky that it’s nothing serious.”

Before tonight’s game, Quinn stated Howden is day-to-day and hinted he may only miss one game.

In an original six matchup, the Rangers will host the Montreal Canadiens for their first encounter of the season. Last season, the teams met three times, and all three games were decided by two goals or less. Montreal won both games at the Bell Centre.

While many projected Montreal to be a lottery team, they have had a great start to the season. Montreal traded away their former captain Max Pacioretty to Vegas for Tomas Tatar, a prospect and draft pick. In addition, they also traded away Alex Galchenyuk to Arizona for Max Domi.

While these trades raised some eyebrows around the league, these trades have paid off for the Canadiens. Domi and Tatar each lead Montreal in points with fifteen and eleven points respectively. Longtime Canadien, Brendan Gallagher also has nine goals.

Montreal’s franchise goalie Carey Price will make the start in Madison Square Garden. Statistically, Price has had a below average start for his standards. Through ten games, Price has just five wins and currently holds a .907 save percentage and 2.59 goals against average.

Henrik Lundqvist will get the start for the Blueshirts. The 36-year-old Swede will look to extend the Rangers win streak to four. Lundqvist has had a strong start to the season. Despite having just four wins, he has a .923 save percentage.

Quinn has been very impressed with the goaltending out of Lundqvist. “I’ve always knew he was a great goalie, but I didn’t know he was this good,” said Quinn. “I don’t know if people appreciate what he does away from the rink. His work ethic, his conditioning and his competitiveness is everything you can ask for in a player. It’s no mystery to me why he is playing at this level at his age and why he will continue to play at a high level for years to come,” Quinn said. “There is no reason he can’t be the Tom Brady of goaltending.”

In news that will excite Rangers fans, the Blueshirts called up former seventh overall pick Lias Andersson from Hartford. The 20-year-old will look to make a strong impression in his season debut and his eighth career NHL game. In 14 games with the Wolf Pack, the Swede tallied four goals and twelve points. Andersson will take Howden’s spot and center Jimmy Vesey and Jesper Fast on the third line.

In addition, Quinn stated that the Rangers had been talking about bringing up Andersson for a while and now was the right time with the Howden injury. He also added that Andersson may stick around once Howden returns.  

Ryan Spooner will return after a one game absence due to injury and he will play on the fourth line with Cody McLeod and Filip Chytil. Vinny Letieri is a healthy scratch tonight.

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Boo Nieves was rotating in practice on Monday, on the fourth line with Filip Chytil. Nieves hasn’t played a game this season due to a concussion suffered in preseason. Quinn says Nieves is still not ready to play. Freddie Claesson was also rotating on the top line defensive pair with Neal Pionk and Marc Staal.

 

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