The Blueshirts are looking for their fourth consecutive win and they will have a golden opportunity against an injured Montreal Canadiens side (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
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The Rangers are coming off a 4-3 shootout victory of the New Jersey Devils. In what was a very close and intense game throughout, the Rangers kids paved the way as Adam Fox, Alexis Lafreniere, and Kaapo Kakko were the goal scorers. Kakko also had a crucial goal in the shootout. The Finnish right winger had his best game of the season and was easily the player of the game.
“I know it’s going to come,” Kakko said. “We have 82 games, so I have time still. I got some good chances before that, like last game, so I knew it’s going to come. Today was the day.”
Alex Georgiev made 24 saves on 27 shots as he had a fine performance in the net for the Rangers. Georgiev picked up his second win of the season and improved to 2-1-1. Sammy Blais was injured on a play near the boards by P.K. Subban and he limped off without returning.
The Blueshirts will now prepare to extend their win streak to four games. But on Tuesday morning they got the news on Blais’s absence from the lineup and it was not what anyone wanted to hear. Blais will miss the rest of the season with an ACL tear. Losing Blais hurts the Rangers as he was having a great start to the year with his physical presence and helping generate scoring opportunities. The Blueshirts are now extremely thin at the right-wing position as they only have Kakko, Julien Gauthier, and Barclay Goodrow who is currently being used as a center. Vitaly Kravtsov is currently on a season-long loan in the KHL and he cannot be recalled until his season in Russia is over.
Greg McKegg was sent down to Hartford on Monday which means Filip Chytil is likely ready to return to the lineup. Chytil’s return to the lineup would mean that Goodrow can go back to RW and possibly take Blais’s spot on the first line. However, with the Rangers playing so well and on a three-game win streak, head coach Gerard Gallant could keep the lineup the same and just replace Blais with Chytil. Chytil would then join Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider on the top line. The final option would be switching one of Kreider or Lafreniere to RW and using Lafreniere as a first liner. In this scenario, Kreider would be more likely to switch.
Igor Shesterkin is expected to get the nod for the Rangers. Shesterkin was simply brilliant in Montreal in the first meeting and stole that win for the Blueshirts making 31 saves.
Montreal was in the Stanley Cup finals last season. This year they have started off as one of the worst teams in the NHL. At just 4-11-2, Montreal only has a better record than Seattle, Ottawa, and Arizona. The Canadiens have one more point than the Kraken and the Senators and they have played two more games than the pair. There is a case to be made that the Canadiens are the second-worst team in the league behind the Coyotes.
The Biggest reason for Montreal’s extremely poor start is they have injuries or players who are unavailable up-and-down the lineup.
- Carey Price – Recently rejoined the team after taking a break for his mental health. Price won’t be available for Tuesday.
- Joel Edmundson – Undisclosed injury and will begin practicing later this week
- Matthieu Perrault – Suffered an eye injury over two weeks ago and was given a two-or three-week absence. He has yet to practice and is likely out on Tuesday night
- Paul Byron – Underwent hip surgery in the offseason and likely won’t be available until after the new year
- Cedrick Paquette – Was placed on the injured reserved on November 10th with an undisclosed injury and is expected to miss at least ten days
- Jonathan Drouin – Took a puck to the head in early November and hasn’t played since. He is listed as day-to-day and could potentially be available against the Rangers
- Mike Hoffman – suffered an upper-body injury and wasn’t available in their previous game against the Bruins. His status is unknown
- Cole Caufield – Caufield broke out during Montreal’s trip to the Stanley Cup final but he had a poor start to the season. Caufield was sent to the AHL with hopes that he would find his game sooner rather than later. Caufield won’t be available barring a late call up.
- Jake Allen – Was in a collision on Saturday with Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin and missed Sunday’s game against the Bruins. Head coach Dominque Ducharme confirmed prior to Sunday’s game that Allen was waiting to be diagnosed. His status doesn’t appear to be good for Tuesday’s game
If Allen is unavailable, the Canadiens will have to turn to third-string netminder Sam Montembeault. Montembeault holds a record of 0-3-1 with a 3.77 goals against average and has a .890 save percentage.
What to Watch
I believe it is important to watch for the execution in the Rangers play against a Canadiens team that could be missing half their roster. Montreal still has dangerous players in the lineup such as Nick Suzuki and Brendan Gallagher who can make the Rangers pay for a mistake. The Blueshirts need to come out crisp and not give Montreal any belief they can win this game. It is important that they don’t take this game lightly.
It will also be interesting to see if Kakko can build off Sunday night’s performance and string together a point streak. Kakko’s two points on Sunday were his first two of the season. He played Sunday with a lot of confidence and was making plays offensively and defensively.