The New York Rangers (13-10-5) are coming off two victories against the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 5 and on Dec. 7 vs. the Vegas Golden Knights. Tonight, they will play the Colorado Avalanche (13-10-1), a club that is playing well despite injuries to some of their top players. They were shutout by the Boston Bruins, 4-0, on Dec. 7 and will aim to put that loss behind them with a solid outing this evening.
Back on Oct. 25, the Avalanche defeated the Rangers, 3-2, in a shootout at Madison Square Garden. Here’s our gameday preview.
New York Rangers Projected Lines
Alexis Lafreniere – Mika Zibanejad – Kaapo Kakko
Artemi Panarin – Filip Chytil – Barclay Goodrow
Chris Kreider – Vincent Trocheck – Jimmy Vesey
Sammy Blais – Jonny Brodzinski – Julien Gauthier
Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller – Jacob Trouba
Libor Hajek – Braden Schneider
Igor Shesterkin – Jaroslav Halak
Gallant’s Line Adjustments Lead To Convincing Win for the Rangers
During the contest against the Blues, head coach Gerard Gallant decided to switch the line combinations and moved Kakko and Lafreniere to the first line with Zibanejad. The result has been successful for the club as they have done well offensively in back-to-back victories. During the game against the Golden Knights, Kakko and Lafreniere each had a goal at even strength, giving the Rangers hope that they have found a solution in their top six.
Zibanejad commented on the play of Kakko and Lafreniere after the win vs. the Golden Knights, “They played great. Worked hard, did little things. [Kakko and Lafreniere] got rewarded. It was nice to see,” (from ‘Rangers’ youngsters come up big in dominant win over Golden Knights,’ New York Post, 12/8/22). Kakko, who had not scored a goal since Nov. 22, commented on breaking his drought, “I think I’ve always said after I score a goal, of course, it feels good. Especially after a little break like that. Feels good. The whole team played very good.” (from ‘Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko snaps long goalless skid,’ New York Post, 12/7/22) He played with Kreider and Zibanejad on the top line earlier in the year and is eager to get more playing time if Gallant keeps him there.
Vitali Kravtsov did not play against the Golden Knights as Gallant decided to scratch him. The head coach moved Goodrow up to the second line and said the choice to not put the young forward in the lineup was a “coach’s decision.” According to a tweet from Vince Z. Mercogliano of The Journal News, he explained in further detail, “I’m comfortable with where my lineup is right now. I like Goodrow up there. He’s played great hockey for us all year long. He’s a competitive guy. You guys know what he does for us every night. It’s nothing against Kravy.” It is fair to wonder what the future holds for him with the Rangers if he is healthy but is not playing regularly. He needs to work on the deficiencies in his game to become a regular member that is activated in the lineup.
Latest News & Highlights
The Rangers placed Ryan Carpenter on waivers on Dec. 8 as Brodzinski has impressed Gallant since he has been called up from the Hartford Wolf Pack and played at the veteran forward’s spot as a fourth-line center.
Colorado Avalanche Projected Lines
Artturi Lehkonen/Alex Newhook – Mikko Rantanen – Valeri Nichushkin/Charles Hudon
Andrew Cogliano – J.T. Compher – Logan O’Connor
Newhook/Sampo Ranta/Darren Helm – Ben Meyers – Hudon/Ranta
Dryden Hunt – Callahan Burke – Jean-Luc Foudy
Samuel Girard – Cale Makar
Devon Toews – Erik Johnson
Jacob MacDonald – Andreas Englund
Alexandar Georgiev – Pavel Francouz
Avalanche Dealing With Several Injuries to Core Players
The Avalanche continue to deal with a myriad of ailments to significant players on their roster as Nichuskin, Helm, and Lehkonen are all working their way back into the lineup. It remains to be seen if any of them will return for the contest vs. the Rangers this evening. Head coach Jared Bednar commented on Nichuskin’s availability for this game, “there is a chance he could play tomorrow.” The forward has been unavailable since late October after undergoing ankle surgery.
Bednar said about Lehkonen’s status for the game, “Lehkonen is close. He is following a protocol. He should be getting close. He is getting better. He doesn’t seem to have any issues right now. He has been in concussion protocol since sustaining the injury during the Dec. 3 contest against the Boston Bruins. Helm has not played this year after undergoing core surgery last offseason and has progressed during practice.”
Players To Watch
New York Rangers – Artemi Panarin
Panarin has contributed eight assists during the last four contests and will help elevate the game of young players such as Lafreniere, Kakko, and Chytil if he continues to play on the same line with any of them during the course of the year. He is one of the league’s top forwards in generating assists.
Colorado Avalanche – Mikko Rantanen
With the absences of Nathan MacKinnon and Nichushkin, the Avalanche have relied even more on Rantanen. He has 15 goals and 17 assists in 24 games and is tied for the club lead with 15 power-play points (PPP).
Tonight’s game has a 9 PM ET start time and will be broadcast on MSG 2.