The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils will meet for the first time this season in a game where the spotlight will be on two of the top prospects in the NHL (7:00 P.M. ET, NBCSN).
In April, the New Jersey Devils were awarded the top pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and the Rangers were awarded the second overall selection. In that draft, there were two clear cut prospects who separated themselves from the rest and their careers will forever be intertwined. The Devils selected Jack Hughes which meant the New York Rangers selected Kaapo Kakko. Tonight, these two will meet for the first time in their careers. In three games, Kakko has registered one goal for the Rangers, whereas Hughes has yet to record his first career point. Kakko though was quick to remind everyone that hockey is a team game.
“It’s not like it’s me against Jack Hughes, it’s Devils against Rangers,” the 18-year-old said.
The Blueshirts are coming off their first defeat of the season on Saturday afternoon against the Edmonton Oilers. Kakko scored his first career goal against the Oilers which sent Madison Square Garden into a frenzy.
“You felt it in the building when he scored — the reaction was incredible,” said head coach David Quinn. “You felt so good for him.”
Tonight, they’ll look to get back on track and improve their record to 3-1-0. The Devils on the other hand, are still looking for their first taste of victory this season. New Jersey is 0-4-2 and are the only team in the NHL that remain winless. The Devils will be without top center and former number one overall pick Nico Hischier who is listed as day-to-day. With Hischier out of the lineup, Hughes will move to the first line with Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall. Hughes will look to record his first career point with his new linemates against their crosstown rivals.
While Hughes has new linemates for tonight’s game, Kakko will also have a new centerman. Quinn has elected to shake up the middle-six and Brett Howden will now center Chris Kreider and Kakko. Ryan Strome will move to the third line as Lias Andersson remains put on the fourth line. Brendan Smith will likely start on the third line with Strome and Fast. If Lemieux is unable to play due to being under the weather, Michael Haley would make his first appearance of the season.
Alex Georgiev will make his second start of the season. Georgiev allowed just one goal on 32 shots in a winning effort against Ottawa back on October 5th. Georgiev is 1-0-0 lifetime against the Devils when he stopped 19 of 21 shots on February 23rd, 2019. With Georgiev starting tonight, Henrik Lundqvist will start tomorrow night’s game in Washington.
MacKenzie Blackwood will play in his fourth game of the year and it’s been a rough start to the season for the 22-year-old. Blackwood is 0-1-2 with a 4.90 goals against average and a .821 save percentage. He’ll be looking for a bounce-back game in a major way.
Despite the Devils struggles to start the season, the Rangers know they are going to have to come out ready to compete.
“We know it’s going to be a tough test,” said Brady Skjei. They’re going to come out flying, especially against us.”
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