Pregame Analysis

Rangers Look to Spoil Elias Pettersson’s MSG Debut

 The Pacific Division leading Vancouver Canucks visit Madison Square Garden for the only time this season (7:00 p.m. ET, MSG).

Bedlam. The Rangers are coming off a crazy shootout win against division rival, Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blueshirts used a two minute-two goal stretch to take a 3-1 lead halfway through the second. The Blue Jackets then answered with two goals in 32 seconds. By the end of the period, each team notched one more and the game was tied 4-4 entering the third period.

After a scoreless third period and overtime, the Rangers won the shootout 3-2 in five rounds and extended their shootout record to 4-0 on the season. The Blue Jackets out shot the Rangers 38-19 including 11-2 in the third period. Simply put, the Rangers stole a game in which many would argue they didn’t deserve.

Alex Georgiev made 34 saves and earned his third straight win. Mika Zibanejad and Vladislav Namestnikov each extended their point streaks to four games. Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich each had a goal and an assist. The Rangers have now won 5 of their last 6 games (5-0-1).

The Blueshirts return to home ice after a two-game road trip and host the Pacific Division leading Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks average over three goals a game, making them a dangerous team up front. Leading the charge, are Canuck young guns Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson. Horvat has 16 points in 18 games and Pettersson has 17 points in 12 games, including 10 goals.

Vancouver drafted Pettersson fifth overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. While it is still early, Pettersson is looking like a steal at fifth overall. Pettersson is currently an early favorite for the Calder Memorial Trophy (NHL Top Rookie). In addition, he was drafted two picks ahead of his friend Lias Andersson. Pettersson flanked Andersson’s wing for Sweden at this past year’s World Championships which ended with Sweden winning the gold.

When asked about if he is surprised by Pettersson’s hot start, Andersson said, “Both yes and no. He’s a very good player, but he has what, 10 goals in 12 games? I didn’t expect that at all, said Andersson. “He had a great year last year, but I didn’t expect him to score 10 goals this early in the season, that’s unreal.”

Pettersson has earned attention and praise from fans and personnel around the league, including Wayne Gretzky. “Comparisons are what sports are all about,” said Gretzky. “From my point of view, he has a lot of my similarities. His hockey sense and play making abilities are as good as any one right now.”

Jacob Markstrom will tend the cage for Vancouver. Like Korpisalo of Columbus, Markstrom has a respectable record of 7-3-2, but statistically, he has struggled. Markstrom currently allows over three goals a game, and he holds an .898 save percentage.

While Saturday’s game earned the Rangers two points, it came with a casualty. Already without Mats Zuccarello who will miss his third straight game, Pavel Buchnevich suffered a broken a broken thumb and will miss four to six weeks. Since being a healthy scratch for back-to-back games, Buchnevich’s confidence has been increasing and it’s shown on the ice. Since sitting for two games, Buchnevich had maintained a point a game average over a four-game span. Ryan Spooner will take the vacated first line right wing spot.

Henrik Lundqvist returns in net for the Rangers. His last outing was a heartbreaking overtime loss in Detroit. The 36-year-old will make his 14th start of the season and he has been very good at Madison Square Garden this season. Lundqvist currently is 4-3-0 with 2.27 goals against average and a .932 save percentage.  In Lundqvist’s last start against the Canucks, he made 50 saves on his 36th birthday, in an overtime win at Vancouver.

Mika Zibanejad will look to extend his point streak to five games along with Kevin Hayes who will look to extend his point streak to four. Both teams enter with a game point streak and each will hope they can make it seven (NYR: 5-0-1. VAN: 4-0-2).

Adam McQuaid remains on the injured reserved and Brendan Smith will be a healthy scratch for the second game in a row.

 

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