The Rangers are in Columbus where they will hope to take advantage of a Blue Jackets team that was thrashed on Wednesday (7:00 P.M. EST, MSG).
|Rangers||NHL Rankings||Blue Jackets|
|4th||NHL Standing Rank||24th|
The Rangers defeated the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 3-2 in the shootout. Goals came from Chris Kreider’s league-leading 30th goal and Barclay Goodrow’s 8th of the season to tie the game in the third period. In the shootout, the Rangers got goals from Artemi Panarin, Alexis Lafreniere, and Adam Fox. Fox’s game-winning shootout goal came in the sixth round on his first career attempt.
“I think he (Fox) should be one of our top shooters,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “He (Fox) said, ‘No, I don’t feel comfortable going.’ But I think that’s going change now.” Fox later added after the game that was his first shootout attempt since juniors.
Igor Shesterkin recorded his seventh straight win and his 12th win in his past 13 games. Shesterkin holds a record of 20-4-2 with a .937 save percentage. The 26-year-old became the fastest goalie in Rangers’ history to record 20 wins in a season (26 games played).
With the Rangers set to play a back-to-back starting in Columbus and ending on Henrik Lundqvist night, expect Alex Georgiev to make a start over the next two days. Georgiev could be given the nod in Columbus while Shesterkin makes the start on an emotional night. Or Gallant could go the reverse way and start Shesterkin against a divisional opponent.
The Blueshirts will look to take advantage of a Blue Jackets side that played on Wednesday night. New York has to keep winning due to the top half of the Metropolitan Division being so competitive. Along with the Rangers, Hurricanes, and Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been red hot and they have come out of nowhere. The Penguins trail the Rangers by just one point but have a game in hand.
Patrik Nemeth won’t make the trip to Columbus. Nemeth is out for the second time this season due to personal reasons. We hope that Nemeth will be okay with whatever he is dealing with. With Nemeth out of the lineup, the Rangers have promoted Zac Jones from the taxi squad to the active roster. Jones will likely serve as the extra defenseman but could be slotted in for Libor Hajek if Gallant elects to do so.
Jonny Brodzinski has also been called up to the active roster from the taxi squad. Brodzinski provided the Rangers with some reliable depth in the three games he’s played in this season. The 28-year-old will slot into the lineup if another forward is unavailable.
Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko won’t be available to play in Thursday night’s game. Chytil wasn’t ruled out by Gallant but he has yet to practice since being out of the lineup. Kakko remains on the IR and won’t be available to return until Sunday at the earliest.
The Blue Jackets enter this game playing the second leg of a back-to-back. On Wednesday, Columbus was obliterated on home ice by the score of 6-0 by the Calgary Flames. And if the score wasn’t bad enough, the Blue Jackets were outshot 62-23 by the Flames. No, that was not a typo. Goaltender Elvis Merzlikins recorded 56 saves in a losing effort.
“Your mind is so busy,” said Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen after getting little sleep. “You’re frustrated, you’re disappointed, you’re trying to figure out, what can we do better…?”
With Merzlikins getting a heavy workload on Wednesday, expect Joonas Korpisalo to get the nod for the Blue Jackets. Korpisalo holds a record of 4-8-0 with an .881 save percentage on the season.
Columbus currently has three players tied with 27 points for the team lead in points. Oliver Bjorkstrand, Boone Jenner, and Voracek all have 27 points. Voracek is playing his first season in Columbus and he currently has just one goal.
Quietly having a good season for the Blue Jackets is defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov. Gavrikov has 17 points on the season and is a plus-two. Gavrikov has the second-highest plus on the team.
Key to the Game
The key to the game is not to give the Blue Jackets any hope. A quick start will go a long way for the Rangers as they look to pounce on a Blue Jackets team that is currently suffering a low point on the season. If the Blue Jackets head coach had little sleep, then some of the players may have too and they may not be as sharp as they usually are. New York needs to pounce on this opportunity and stay in the race for the division title.