The Rangers will meet the Devils in the “Battle of the Hudson” in what is a pivotal game in the playoff hunt for the Blueshirts (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
Thursday night, Mika Zibanejad had a night that he won’t ever forget. The Rangers defeated the Capitals 6-5 in a wild game that saw Zibanejad register five goals. Zibanejad recorded the hat trick early in the third period, before scoring a goal late in the third which many figured would be the game winner. However, Alex Ovechkin would have something to say and tie the game with the goalie pulled. In overtime, Zibanejad would receive a gorgeous dime from Artemi Panarin and bury a breakaway top shelf to send the garden into a frenzy.
“I feel like I’m speechless right now, to be honest with you,” said Zibanejad after the game. With the five-goal game, Zibanejad is currently in the top five in the NHL with the most goals scored this season.
“I think that’s the true definition of swagger: Knowing you’re really good but not having to tell everybody,” said head coach David Quinn. “That’s a unique quality.”
While the Rangers snapped their three-game skid in an epic fashion, the Blueshirts will have to turn their attention to the New Jersey Devils who will be looking to play spoiler. Last time these two teams play, the Rangers defeated the Devils 6-3 on the back of a Tony DeAngelo hat trick and five-point game. This game won’t be easy as the Devils are playing some of their best hockey of the season lately. New Jersey has registered at least one point in seven of their past eight games and they are coming off a 4-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champions – the St. Louis Blues on Friday night. The Blues defeated the Rangers are Tuesday 3-1. In addition, the Devils are 6-2-2 in their past ten games.
The Devils leading point scorer is Kyle Palmieri with 43 points. The first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft Jack Hughes has recorded 21 points this season – the same amount as Kaapo Kakko. The two rookies will meet for just the second time in their young careers.
New Jersey will turn to MacKenzie Blackwood after Cory Schneider picked up the win on Friday. Blackwood has had a fine season for the Devils with a respectable record of 21-13-8 with a 2.71 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.
The Rangers may get a boost as Igor Shesterkin appears slated to return following the car accident in which he suffered a fractured rib. Shesterkin is 9-1-0 to start his career. If Shesterkin isn’t cleared, Alex Georgiev would like be called upon for his fourth start in the past five games. Georgiev wasn’t sharp against the Capitals and he’d probably think he could have made another stop or two.
Jesper Fast has been good against the Devils this season. Fast has recorded one goal in each of the three meetings. Panarin has set a career high with 93 points this season and he is well on pace to break 100 for the first time in his career. Panarin’s 93 points are the third most in the league behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
The Rangers currently sit two points out of the second wildcard position and three points out of the first wildcard spot. If the Blueshirts want to make the playoffs, they are going to have to find a way to beat teams who are no longer competing for a playoff position.