After getting just one point in Pittsburgh despite playing well enough to win both meetings last week, the Rangers will take on the Penguins for the third time this season (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
|Rangers||East Division Ranks /8||Penguins|
Thursday night, the Rangers completed a four-game road trip that started with two games in Pittsburgh and concluded with two games in Buffalo. The Blueshirts went 1-2-1 on the trip but are coming off against a win against Buffalo on the final day on the road. The Rangers won 3-2 on an overtime goal from Alexis Lafreniere. Lafreniere’s overtime goal was the first goal and point of his NHL career.
“I had a lot a lot of good chances,” Lafreniere said. “Just keep going and it was going to go in…. It’s pretty crazy. Overtime, a game-winning goal – it’s pretty special. I’ll never forget this moment.”
The overtime goal was set up by Colin Blackwell who has now recorded a point in each game he has played in this season. Many were surprised to see the 27-year-old on the ice in the extra frame.
“We get so caught up and in where people are drafted and the hype about people,” said head coach David Quinn on Blackwell. “But I don’t give two craps about that right now. We want to win hockey games and he was the best option.”
The other two goals came from Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin who registered a two-point night. Quinn stated after the game that Strome suffered a slight lower-body injury but thinks he’ll be fine. If Strome was unavailable, the Blueshirts would be down a second center with Filip Chytil currently out of the lineup.
And after a much-needed win, the Rangers will look to build on that and win two-in-a-row for the first time this season. One could argue the Blueshirts could have won both games in Pittsburgh but they ultimately came up just short. The Rangers should feel confident coming off a win and playing an opponent they played very well.
Assuming there are no injuries to deal with, the Blueshirts are expected to roll-out the exact same lineup that won in Buffalo. If it turned out that Strome was unavailable, the Rangers would have just three healthy centers (Mika Zibanejad, Brett Howden, Kevin Rooney) and would have a few options to address the situation. One is to shift a winger to center and Julien Gauthier could return to the lineup. Another option is to use a seventh defenseman and just run with three centers. Or thirdly, they could call up a center from the minors such as Morgan Barron to make his NHL debut.
Igor Shesterkin will likely get the start after making 23 saves for his first win of the season. Shesterkin has gotten off to a slow start but he looked sharp in Buffalo and this could be the beginning of a run for the 25-year-old.
For the Penguins, Tristan Jarry has started the past four games including two wins against the Rangers. But he has since lost his last two against the Boston Bruins and he allowed four goals on 20 shots on Thursday night. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan could elect to give his starter a break and turn to Casey DeSmith who won his last start against the Washington Capitals.
The Penguins enter the game having gone winless on the road in their opening four games. In the previous two games, the Penguins supporting cast was making big contributions in the first two meetings: particularly Bryan Rust and Jared McCann. Both Rust and McCann scored in both meetings and McCann is riding a five-game point-scoring streak against the Rangers.
With a win today, the Blueshirts could find their way out of the basement of the East and possibly climb as high as sixth.