Pregame Analysis

Rangers Conclude Back-To-Back Against Montreal

               After a stellar performance by Alex Georgiev on Thursday night in Columbus, the Rangers will look to sweep the back-to-back against Montreal (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).

Rangers Ranks Canadiens
14-10-3 Record 12-11-6
9th GF/PG 10th   
23rd GA/PG 28th
13th PP% 14th 
23rd PK% 29th

               “Thank God for Georgie,” said head coach David Quinn following the conclusion of Thursday’s night game. Alex Georgiev made 45 saves including a save-of-the-year candidate with under two minutes left.

               “When they kind of got rolling, we ended up getting a big save, and that was kind of what the game came down to,” said Jacob Trouba. Trouba finished the game with just under 28 minutes of time on ice due to injury. In the first period, Libor Hajek suffered a sprained knee and was unable to return.

               The story entering the game was all about Artemi Panarin making his return to Columbus. Panarin played two seasons in Columbus, but Thursday night he was receiving the Rick Nash treatment as he was booed every time, he touched the puck. Panarin scored the game-winning goal for the Rangers in the third period.

               “We don’t play great today, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure that out,” said Mika Zibanejad. “We gutted it out, we got big saves from our goalie, and if you’re going to look back at this game in a couple weeks, you’re going to see the two points we got out of this. We’ll take it and move on.”

               Move on is what the Blueshirts will do as they have to be ready to face Montreal at Madison Square Garden before heading out west for a four-game road trip on the west coast. Henrik Lundqvist, who was the announced starter for this game earlier this week, was reportedly ill last night and was not on the bench. There is no word on his status for tonight’s game. If Lundqvist can’t go, Georgiev may be called upon again after a heavy workload against the Blue Jackets. The other option would be to call up Igor Shesterkin from Hartford and give him his first career NHL start. Shesterkin is believed by many to be Lundqvist’s successor and this would give the Rangers their first look of Shesterkin in a meaningful game.

               Friday night’s opponents, the Montreal Canadiens have mightily struggled lately. Montreal has just one win in their last ten games, including blowing a four-goal lead against the Rangers in Montreal just under two weeks ago. Carey Price who has continued to struggle this year will get the start for Montreal. Price, who is the leagues top paid goaltender, has a 3.13 goals against average and an .899 save percentage.

               The Canadiens have four players who have registered over 20 points this season: Tomas Tatar, Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher, and Phillip Danault. But it was the struggling Max Domi who found his groove against the Rangers in their November meeting. Domi registered two goals after he had gone nine games without a goal.  

               Montreal is already dealing with injuries, just lost former third overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi to a concussion in Thursday night’s defeat against the Colorado Avalanche.

               Marc Staal has been practicing and skating all week and is very close to returning. If Hajek can’t play, Staal would be the obvious replacement if he is ready to go. If Staal isn’t quite ready, Brendan Smith could move down to defense and Michael Haley can return to the lineup, or the Rangers could recall a defenseman from Hartford. Although a righty, Joey Keane has been very impressive in Hartford and he could potentially make his NHL debut if the Rangers decided Staal and Hajek couldn’t play and they wanted to leave Smith at forward.

Projected Lineup

Panarin-Strome-Kreider

Lemieux-Zibanejad-Kakko

Fast-Chytil-Buchnevich

Nieves-Howden-Smith

Skjei-Trouba

Lindgren-Fox

Staal-DeAngelo

Lundqvist

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