The Rangers are playing their final game of the year in St.Louis where they look to sweep a two-game western conference road trip (7:00P.M. ET, MSG).
Head coach David Quinn made an interesting decision taking Chris Kreider away from Kevin Hayes, despite the two playing so well together, and what a decision it turned out to be. The Kreider-Zibanejad-Fast line combined for ten points in a 4-3 win in Nashville.
“I know how to play with them,and of course yesterday was a good game for us, we scored some big goalsthere,” said Fast. “That was a lot of fun.”
The Rangers were trailing 3-2 entering the third and came back to win the game 4-3, for their first regulation-road win of the season. With 12 minutes left in the third, the Blueshirts found themselves in the lead, which had fans nervous. The Rangers have had countless third period leads throughout the season which they blew, but Saturday night was different. The Rangers closed out the game in a very professional way.
“We played winning hockey when it mattered,” said Quinn, whose team has struggled closing out games this season.
“I thought we did a great job…I’m extremely happy,” said Zibanejad, who registered an assist on each goal. “Most important thing is we got the win.”
“To come in here and beat this team the way we did…that’s big for this group,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “We played for one another in here.” Lundqvist made 34 saves in a winning effort.
“We talked about how making the right plays is so important in those moments,” said Fast. “The last week or so we haven’t been able to close games the way we wanted to. So we had a good talk that morning, that everyone’s got to understand how important every shift is, and every small detail that we’re doing out there.
With the year coming to a close, the Rangers spirits are high, despite a challenging season. They will look to keep those spirits high against the struggling St. Louis Blues. However, the Ranger with the highest spirit is Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk is slated to make his return to the lineup following a separated shoulder on a hit by former Ranger J.T. Miller on December 10th.
“He gives us the ability to get the puck out of our end, which is a huge quality to have at this level, the way teams forecheck,” Quinn said. “When he’s on his game, we get out of our end quicker. And the thing that I like before he got hurt, I thought he was defending well, too. We missed him for sure when he was gone.”
Shattenkirk played seven seasons as a member of the Blues. Tonight’s game will be his first as a member of the visiting team in St. Louis.
“It’s been a couple years removed since I’ve been here, so I’m looking forward to playing tomorrow night,” said Shattenkirk, after Sunday practice. “I still have some good buddies on the team. This is a place that I called home for a long time, and a place that I really enjoyed living. It’s going to be a bit emotional, but fun to be coming back into the lineup and in a place that I’m familiar with.”
Lundqvist will make his fourth consecutive start, following a two-game rest against the Ducks and Leafs. Jake Allen who has had an up-and-down season will start for the Blues. Allen is 13-11-4 with a .900 save percentage and a 3.10 goals against average. The struggling Blues have made it clear that no one is off limits in terms of a trade, including star winger, Vladimir Tarasenko. Like the rest of the Blues, Tarasenko has struggled this season and only has 11 goals and 11 assists in 36 games played. They currently have the second fewest points in the NHL and are in the basement in the Central Division.
Filip Chytil could be a healthy scratch tonight with Boo Nieves taking the third line wing with Brett Howden and Pavel Buchnevich.
With 2018 coming to a close, below is a timeline of some high and low moments throughout the year.
January 1st– The Rangers beat the Sabres 3-2 in the winter classic and improved their all-time outdoor record to 4-0.
January 19th – Kevin Shattenkirk is put on theinjured reserved with a torn meniscus and would miss the rest of the season
February 8th– The Rangers announce they arerebuilding in a press conference and a letter to the fans. Brendan Smith is waivedand Neal Pionk is recalled from Hartford
February 20th-February 25th– The Rangers blow up the team at the trade deadline. Nick Holden, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash, J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh are all traded.
February 25th– Jean Ratelle’s number is retired
March 27th– The Rangers are mathematically eliminatedfrom the playoffs. This is the first time Lundqvist would play in meaninglesshockey games.
April 7th– The Rangers finish the year with 77points and in the basement of the Metropolitan Division. Head coach AlainVigneault and associate coach Scott Arniel are fired.
May 23rd– David Quinn is hired as the new head coach of the Rangers. Quinn was the head coach of Boston University
June 22nd-Rangers use their three first roundpicks on Vitali Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist
July 1st– The first day of free agency and theRangers sign Fredrik Claesson and extend Vlad Namestnikov
July 17th– David Oliver and Greg Brown are hiredas assistant coaches. RFA Jimmy Vesey signs a two-year deal
July 28th– The Rangers sign RFA Brady Skjei forsix-years
July 30th– RFA Kevin Hayes signs a one-yearcontract
September – Roster cuts are made and some of the notabledecisions include – Brett Howden and Filip Chytil made the team. Brendan Smithalso makes the cut. Lias Andersson starts the year in Hartford.
October 4th– The Rangers open the new season witha 3-2 defeat against the Nashville Predators
October 11th– The Rangers win their first game of the season in overtime against the San Jose Sharks. This marks David Quinn’s first ever head coaching win in the NHL
November 16th– The Rangers trade Ryan Spooner forRyan Strome
November 17th– The Rangers defeat the Panthers4-2. Henrik Lundqvist passes Jacques Plante for seventh on the all-time winslist
December 2nd– The Rangers retire Vic Hadfield’snumber
December 31st – The Rangers close 2018 in St Louis