The New York Rangers (12-10-5) are coming off a 6-4 victory against the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 5 and begin a tough part of their schedule tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights (19-7-1). The Rangers need to avoid falling back into their inconsistent play after their latest win, as they have had a habit of doing after a victory.
After tonight, the Rangers play the Colorado Avalanche, the New Jersey Devils, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here’s our gameday preview.
New York Rangers Projected Lines
Alexis Lafreniere – Mika Zibanejad – Kaapo Kakko
Artemi Panarin – Vincent Trocheck/Filip Chytil – Vitali Kravtsov
Chris Kreider – Barclay Goodrow/Trocheck – Jimmy Vesey
Sammy Blais – Jonny Brodzinski/Ryan Carpenter/Goodrow – Julien Gauthier
Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller – Jacob Trouba
Libor Hajek – Braden Schneider
Igor Shesterkin – Jaroslav Halak
Gallant’s Line Changes Spark the Rangers In Win Over the Blues
Head coach Gerard Gallant’s decision to alter the line combinations during the second period of their last game proved to be a success in their victory. “After the second [period], I wasn’t liking what I was seeing. I wasn’t liking what I was seeing midway through the second period and I just wanted to try to spark something again. The two kids [Lafreniere and Kakko] deserve some opportunities and I thought they played really well. For me, it made the three lines all better. Hopefully they’ll sustain it, but we’ll see,” (from ‘Gerard Gallant’s line-mixing creates winning Rangers formula,’ New York Post, 12/6/22).
Kreider credited Kakko’s work ethic and believes his confidence will soar if he begins capitalizing on his scoring chances, “it doesn’t matter if you’re a young guy or a vet, seeing the puck go in when you’ve been hitting posts and getting chances, that’s big. I’ve got a pretty sure bet that Kaapo [Kakko] is the next one next game. Because he’s been doing all the little things and working his butt off and getting all kinds of chances and looks. It’s going to find a way in off his butt or something next game. He’s going to get rewarded. He’s doing a lot of little things and his game has come such a long way – so has Laf’s,” (from ‘Kids’ big night shows they will still decide Rangers’ fate,’ New York Post, 12/6/22).
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The Rangers’ line combination of Lafreniere-Zibanejad-Kakko gives the two young wingers a chance to benefit from playing with arguably their top forward in Zibanejad. Panarin is viewed as their top player based on his contract and potential as a playmaker, but Zibanejad is tied with Kreider for the team lead in goals (13) and ranks third in assists (16). He gives Lafreniere and Kakko the best chance to progress based on his experience and consistent offensive production.
Vegas Golden Knights Projected Lines
Chandler Stephenson/Paul Cotter – Jack Eichel/Stephenson – Mark Stone
Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Jonathan Marchessault
Cotter/Mike Amadio – Nicolas Roy – Phil Kessel
Will Carrier – Jake Leschyshyn – Keegan Kolesar
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Alec Martinez – Zach Whitecloud
Nicolas Hague – Daniil Miromanov
Logan Thompson – Adin Hill
Cassidy Returns to Boston & Leads Golden Knights to Win Over the Bruins
The Golden Knights played another top club, the Boston Bruins, on Dec. 5, and they managed to snap their adversary’s 14-game home win streak. Bruce Cassidy’s team won a shootout victory, 4-3, in which he received an emotional video tribute from the former organization he used to coach. He commented on his reaction to the tribute, “that’s something I’ll get choked up about, probably in about three seconds. I appreciate it. It’s that simple. I appreciate it. I did what I could here to help the team win. And now it’s on to Vegas to help that team win.”
Due to the absence of Eichel against the Bruins, Cassidy adjusted the lines putting Cotter on the top line to begin the game. The forward led them with two goals during regulation, and Theodore had assists on both of his tallies. Even if Eichel remains unavailable tonight, the Golden Knights have plenty of offensive players to account for, such as Stephenson, Stone, and Marchessault.
Players To Watch
New York Rangers – Kaapo Kakko
Kakko has generated plenty of chances recently, and Kreider believes he will be rewarded based on his hard work. If he plays with Zibanejad more consistently, he has his best chance of producing for the Rangers.
Vegas Golden Knights – Logan Thompson
Despite starter Robin Lehner missing the entire year after undergoing hip surgery before the start of the season, the duo of Thompson and Hill has done well for the Golden Knights. Thompson has a record of 13-5-0, a 2.55 goals-against-average (GAA), and a save percentage (SV%) of .921. He has played like a starting goalie playing for one of the league’s best franchises.
Tonight’s game has a 10 PM ET start time and will be broadcast on TNT.