The Rangers are coming off an impressive 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals and they are now scheduled to return to Madison Square Garden to take on a dreadful Buffalo Sabres team (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
|Rangers||East Division Ranks /8||Sabres|
The Rangers will return to home ice before heading off on another three-game road trip. On Monday night, they will play the Buffalo Sabres who are in a crisis. Rumors are swirling that their star forward Jack Eichel wants out of Buffalo. They recently fired their head coach Ralph Krueger after a dismal start to the season. In addition, they haven’t made the playoffs since 2011. But even more concerning than all of that – the Sabres are currently on a 13-game-losing streak and have been outscored 50-19 during that span. Who was the last team to lose 14 games in a row? Oh yeah, the Buffalo Sabres during the 2014-2015 season.
Don Granato has been named Buffalo’s interim head coach and one of his assistants is former Ranger Dan Girardi who recently retired. Granato’s Sabres were defeated during his first game in charge, but he has now had time to make tweaks with having both games against Boston postponed. But not at his disposal will be captain Eichel. Eichel is currently out of the lineup “for the foreseeable future” with a rib injury.
If the Blueshirts are going to make a run at the playoffs – this becomes a must-win game. It doesn’t matter if they win in regulation or overtime, they just need two points. They play Buffalo four more times after tonight and really need to win all of those games. Monday’s game against the Sabres could push the Rangers as close as four points away for the final playoff spot.
Rangers head coach David Quinn and his staff remain on the COVID protocol list. It is safe to assume either Quinn or someone on his staff has tested positive for the virus. Acting head coach Kris Knoblauch will remain in charge behind the Rangers bench during Monday’s game.
After a solid outing in Washington, Keith Kinkaid will make his second consecutive start. Kinkaid made 28 saves on 29 shots in a winning effort on Saturday night. Knoblauch said starter Igor Shesterkin is “very close” and could be available on Thursday in Philadelphia.
In other Ranger news, Vitaly Kravtsov has concluded his mandatory quarantine upon arrival in the United States. Kravtsov has to pass a cardiac screening in order to clear the final step of the COVID protocol. If Kravtsov passes the screening, he could be practicing with the Rangers as early as Tuesday and he could make his NHL debut as early as Thursday. The Blueshirts could opt to wait until the weekend which would allow him to get more familiar with the system and get some practices under his belt.
Brett Howden won’t be available on Monday. Julien Gauthier will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past three games.
Jack Johnson has undergone season-ending surgery on his hernia. Johnson is expected to make a full recovery in the summer. Johnson’s contract concludes with the Rangers at the end of this season.