After conceding the division to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night, the Rangers will play the second half of a back-to-back with as many as eight new players in the lineup.
|8th||NHL Standing Rank||32nd|
The Blueshirts dropped their second straight game after falling defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes by the score of 4-3. The Rangers got goals from Chris Kreider, Jacob Trouba, and Alexis Lafreniere. Prior to scoring his 52nd goal of the season, Kreider won the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award for the first time in his career.
“I told the McDonald’s that was probably the greatest honor of my hockey career,” said Kreider. “Knowing what the award stands for, knowing what Steve stood for, what the family represents.”
Andrew Copp and Artemi Panarin each suffered minor injuries in the second period and did not return. Head Coach Gerard Gallant told the media that they were being cautious with the pair. Gallant said both could have returned.
With nothing else to play for, the Rangers will rest players as they prepare for the playoffs.
“We’re going to rest some players obviously a little bit here,” Gallant said. “It’s a good opportunity to do that.”
Expected to enter the lineup will be Kaapo Kakko, Greg McKegg, Jonny Brodzinski, Julien Gauthier, Justin Braun, Libor Hajek, and Zac Jones. Alex Georgiev is also expected to get the start in goal. Georgiev has won his last seven starts.
Kakko will return to the lineup after missing the previous four games due to injury. The former second overall pick has played in just 41 games this season. He will be looking to get up to full speed prior to the playoffs. Kakko will be on a line with Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil. This will be the first time this trio has played together under Gallant. Expect “the kid” line to get a lot of ice time.
Jones was called up from Hartford and he will play in the final two games. Gallant hinted that there could be more call-ups from Hartford as well which would allow the Rangers to rest even more guys. Other call-ups could include Nils Lundkvist, Bobby Travingo, Anthony Greco, etc.
Copp and Panarin are two of the names expected to not be playing along with starting netminder Igor Shesterkin. The Blueshirts will scratch at least two more forwards and candidates for rest include Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Barclay Goodrow, and Frank Vatrano. Kreider and Zibanejad have played in every game this season.
On defense expect three of Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, and K’Andre Miller to get some rest. Trouba and Miller have both played in every game this season.
Montreal will miss the playoffs after going to the Stanley Cup Final just last season. The Canadiens are currently last in the league in total points. After firing Dominique Ducharme in February, Montreal is currently being coached by former Rangers forward Martin St. Louis.
Under St. Louis, Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki have hovered near a point-per-game pace. Both skaters have 32 points in 35 games since Ducharme’s firing. Caufield had eight points in 30 games while Suzuki had 27 points in 45 games prior to the coaching change.
“Every rink you play in is special, but this one being in New York City, it’s a legendary rink,” said Caufield on his first NHL game in Madison Square Garden. “It’s going to be a really special opportunity.”
News that will cause fans concern is the health of Carey Price. Price has played in four games this season after undergoing meniscus surgery in the offseason and entering the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program in October. Price is now meeting with his surgeon and is considered day-to-day.
What to Watch
While Wednesday night’s game means nothing for either team, I believe that the next two games will be important for the depth players. Guys such as McKegg, Reaves, Brodzinski, Gauthier, etc. are fighting for their spot in terms of depth order for the playoffs. These guys will be looking to impress the coaching staff and show they can be trusted if their number is called.
Projected Lineup (Wish me luck!)