After a two-game road trip in eastern Canada, the New York Rangers return home to face Mats Zuccarello’s Minnesota Wild (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
The Blueshirts are coming off a road trip where they went 1-1-0. After suffering an embarrassing defeat to the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens with an epic comeback.
“We don’t do anything half-hearted; I’ll tell you that,” said head coach David Quinn. “When we stink, we stink; when we’re good, we’re good.”
The Rangers found themselves down 4-0 shortly into the second period. As things looked bleak and that the Rangers may suffer another embarrassing loss, the Rangers responded with three goals in just over three minutes. After Montreal would tally another in the third period, the Rangers scored three more goals past Carey Price to complete the comeback. It was the first time the Blueshirts secured a comeback victory of four or more goals since 1991. Brendan Lemieux had arguably his best game of the season scoring two goals including his first career short-handed goal.
“I don’t think that there was a specific moment that we knew it was real,” said Lemieux. “I think we just never thought it wasn’t.”
“We just never stopped. We just never stopped,” said head coach David Quinn. “I couldn’t be prouder of these guys. We competed from the drop of the puck right to the horn blowing at the end.”
Quinn further elaborated “I like coaching this team so much and to see how excited they were after we won, and the way that we won, and what they put into it on and off the ice, it’s just a great feeling to watch them enjoy the moment. Because when you come into this building and you’re down 4-nothing and you accomplish what we just accomplished, they should feel really good about it. And I’m really happy for them.”
Tonight, the Blueshirts welcome back former fan-favorite Mats Zuccarello. The Rangers traded Zuccarello at the 2019 trade deadline to the Dallas Stars and will return to Madison Square Garden for the first time. Zuccarello registered 352 points in 509 games in 9 seasons with the Rangers. The 32-year-old won the coveted Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award three times during his time in New York. Zuccarello has eleven points in 19 games this season. This will be the first time Zuccarello has ever played against the Rangers.
“The fans, they did so much for me and helped me and supported me all those years,” Zuccarello said. “So that’s going to be special, for sure.”
“Listen, I’ve been around this game for a long time and being one of the fan favorites in that organization for as long as he was, you can’t treat it the same [as any other game],” said Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau. “I was there when Teemu [Selanne] went back to Winnipeg for the first time and it was a nuthouse. I don’t know if it could possibly reach that extent, but [Zuccarello] was a very popular guy in New York and New York is very passionate, so you never know what’s going to happen.”
The Wild are currently led in points by another former Ranger in Eric Staal. Staal played 20 games with the Rangers after being acquired at the trade deadline in 2016. The 35-year-old currently has 17 points in the season. Current Ranger defender and brother of Eric, Marc Staal remains sidelined after undergoing a surgical procedure for an infection in his ankle.
The Blueshirts have sent Tim Gettinger back to Hartford. Gettinger recorded one assist in two games with the Rangers. Boo Nieves has been recalled from Hartford and will make his season debut. The former second-round pick would have to pass through waivers if they would try to send him to Hartford.
Henrik Lundqvist will get the starting nod for the Rangers. Lundqvist suffered defeat in his last outing in Ottawa. Lundqvist will look to get back on track against a Wild team that is 4-10-1 on the road this season.
Mika Zibanejad who has missed the last 12 games will likely be unavailable for tonight’s contest. Quinn wants to make sure Zibanejad is fully healthy before slotting his number one center back into the lineup. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in this situation because he hasn’t had a chance to get contact,” Quinn said prior to the Canada trip. “We’re [not] just going to throw him out there [for] a full game without having a practice or a chance to have some contact.” With the Blueshirts not practicing Sunday, Quinn will likely opt to hold Zibanejad out.
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