The Rangers are back in Madison Square Garden after a four-game road trip which saw them run the table and earn eight points (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
|3rd||NHL Standing Rank||21st|
It was a tough four-game road trip but the Blueshirts were very impressive coming away with wins in each game. The last game on the trip was an afternoon start in Ottawa which saw them trailing after the first shot. New York was down 2-0 with under six minutes to go in the third period. A power-play goal by Chris Kreider on an excellent passing play would get the Rangers back within one. After the goal, Kreider’s knee accidentally collided with Ottawa’s goaltender Matt Murray’s head and he was unable to continue. The Blueshirts kept pouring the pressure and riding momentum and were able to find a tying goal on backup goalie Anton Forsberg before finding a winner with a couple of minutes left on a Barclay Goodrow redirection. With their backs against the wall – the Rangers used a 3:20 stretch to turn the game on its head and leave Canada’s capital with both points.
Alex Georgiev made his second start of the season and bounced back nicely after a rough outing to open the season in Washington. Georgiev made 26 saves on 28 shots for his first win of the season. It wasn’t his sharpest performance as he would probably like to have the second goal back, but he did keep his composure and gave the Rangers a chance to win throughout the game.
“It’s been good to work a little extra with (goaltender coach) Benny (Benoit Allaire) – watch some video…,” Georgiev said. “Just be patient, work hard and wait for the chance to play.”
Now the Rangers will return home for their second home game of the season with a chance to extend their win streak to five games. The exciting news for the Rangers is that Ryan Strome has finished the isolation part of the NHL COVID protocol and was able to practice with the team on Sunday. Should Strome be cleared by team doctors, the 28-year-old will rejoin the lineup for Monday night’s game. Head coach Gerard Gallant told the media on Sunday that Panarin would definitely be reunited with Strome if he returns to the lineup on Monday.
“I think he (Panarin) feels really comfortable playing with Strome,” Gallant said. Panarin had started the season slow by his standards with just four points in six games.
Kaapo Kakko also has a chance to return to the lineup after suffering an injury during the first period of the first game on the road trip in Montreal. Kakko has skated the past couple of days as he nears his return. The third-year player was skating with a non-contact jersey which probably means he is less likely to play than Strome who also skated on the team’s top power-play unit.
According to Gallant, both Strome and Kakko have a chance to play tonight but would not confirm if either would be available. Their next chance to play would be on Friday before the Rangers take off for another four-game road trip including the franchise’s first-ever game against the Seattle Kraken and the three western Canadian teams.
Igor Shesterkin is expected to get the start for the Rangers after being given a rest on Saturday afternoon. With the Rangers not playing again until Friday, it is likely Gallant will turn to the Russian for both starts given his outstanding play to start the year.
The Calgary Flames enter this game with a record of 2-1-1. Like the Rangers, the Flames started 0-1-1 and have since won two straight games. Calgary is led by a top-line consisting of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk. Like his brother Brady who the Rangers saw on Saturday, Matthew is a very skillful player who also likes to get under the skin of the opposition. The Rangers did a good job with Brady on Saturday and will hope to replicate that success against Matthew on Monday.
While Tkachuk will be all over the ice trying to cause chaos for the Rangers defense, they will still need to watch out for his linemates who are off to a hot start. Gaudreau has six assists in four games to open the season while Lindholm has six goals – including a hat trick in their last game against the Capitals.
The Flames big offseason move was signing Lightning forward Blake Coleman to a six-year deal worth just shy of 30 million dollars. Coleman was linemates with Goodrow in Tampa Bay as they were a part of that Lightning third line which was a key factor for them to win back-to-back Stanley Cups. The two will now play against one another after being teammates since February 2020.
Calgary will turn to Jacob Markstrom who was also given a break on Saturday as the team turned to new backup goaltender Dan Vladar. Markstrom started last Thursday in Detroit where he stopped all 33 shots he faced for his shutout of the season.
What to Watch For
The thing that will be most intriguing to keep an eye on is how Gallant arranges the forward lines to start the game and if he will change them as the game progresses. A key factor to this will be Strome and Kakko’s availability. With Strome more likely to return to the lineup, a likely split would occur between Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Sammy Blais. That line had many key contributions during the team’s road trip which saw them go undefeated. The other option Gallant has is could opt to key the trio together as a third line and move other players around in the lineup to keep them together.