The Blueshirts welcome the Edmonton Oilers to Madison Square Garden for the only time this season in a matchup between two unbeaten (1:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
The Rangers have been licking their chops to get back on the ice and they’ll get their chance after being off for almost a week.
“It’s going to be good to play a hockey game — that’s for sure,” said head coach David Quinn.
“Definitely want to play some games here,” said offseason acquisition Jacob Trouba. “We’ll be ready Saturday. We have a lot of practice time.”
The Rangers first line will look to remain hot after a dream start. Mika Zibanejad was the NHL’s first star of the week after recording four goals and four assists in two games. In the second game against the Senators, Zibanejad recorded a hat trick. Artemi Panarin has four points including a goal in each game and Pavel Buchnevich has two assists.
While the Rangers were off, there was a transaction that caught the attention of the fan base. Vladislav Namestnikov was shipped off to Ottawa for 25-year-old Nick Ebert and a 2021 fourth-round draft pick. With this trade, general manager Jeff Gorton was able to shed 3.25 million dollars in cap space after retaining $750,000. Greg McKegg will likely fill the void on the fourth line with Brendan Lemieux starting on the third line.
Henrik Lundqvist will make his second start of the season. Lundqvist is coming off a 43-save win back on October 3rd. He too is itching to get back into action.
“You just have to go hard in practice,” Lundqvist said. “That’s all we can do – stay focused and try to have the intensity high when we practice. But every time you start the season, you want to get going. It feels like you’re back in training camp a little bit.”
“He comes to practice with a game-like mentality every day, so if there’s a guy who’s going to stay sharp through this type of stretch, it will be Hank,” said Quinn.
When the Rangers saw this game on the schedule, little did they know they would be facing an undefeated Edmonton Oilers team. The Oilers are 4-0-0 including victories over the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils. The Rangers will have to keep a sharp eye on Connor McDavid, who many consider the best player in the league and superstar Leon Draisaitl. The pair of players have combined for 18 points in just four games. Also, on a surprising tear has been the resurgence of James Neal. Neal was acquired from the Calgary Flames in the offseason and has made the Oilers front off look like geniuses. Neal has registered seven goals including a four-goal performance against the Islanders and goals in each of the past three games.
The Blueshirts will hope to get their second line going after a slow start. The second line center spot was always up for grabs since training camp. Strome won the job but knows he must start producing.
“Strome and I have had some conversations,” Quinn said. He certainly knows he’s got to pick his game up. He’s not happy with the way he’s played.”
2019 second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko has had moments but he also remains pointless. Chris Kreider is the only member of the second line to register at least a point.
“We need more out of them,” said Quinn. “Again, it’s not just one guy – it’s all three guys.”