Two NHL teams have direct ties to Texas, and they faceoff Thursday night in Dallas. The Stars, of course, call the Lone Star State home. Tonight’s opponent, the New York Rangers, were founded 90 years ago by George Lewis “Tex” Rickard, a former cowboy and lawman-turned-sports promoter who grew up in Henrietta, Texas, just outside present-day Wichita Falls. A New York sportswriter jokingly referred to the newly-awarded franchise as “Tex’s Rangers” and Rickard liked the play on words, so the name stuck.
For a team that just turned 90, the Blueshirts are in awfully good shape. They currently occupy second place in the mighty Metropolitan Division and are outscoring opponents by more than a goal per game, on average. In addition to scoring, the Rangers have speed and elite goaltending.
Tonight the Stars will attempt yet again to “go for two,” to string together consecutive wins for just the second time this season. Against Anaheim Tuesday night, they leaned heavily on Antti Niemi for 40 minutes before stepping on the gas in a third-period goal-scoring extravaganza. Dallas will need to play a more complete game Thursday in order to defeat Texas’ “other” hockey team.
New York Rangers at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:30 pm CST
Broadcast channels – FS-SW+, MSG
2016-17 Season Series:
First Meeting of the Season
New York Rangers: 20-10-1 – 41 Points
Road Record: 9-5-0
Hot Players: Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh and Antti Raanta
Key Injuries: Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad and Matt Puempel
Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – Mats Zuccarello
J.T. Miller – Kevin Hayes – Rick Nash
Jesper Fast – Oscar Lindberg – Marek Hrivik
Jimmy Vesey – Brandon Pirri – Michael Grabner
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal – Nick Holden
Brady Skeji – Kevin Klein
Dallas Stars – 12-13-6 – 30 Points
Home Record: 8-4-2
Hot Players: Devin Shore, Jamie Benn and Antti Niemi
Key Injuries: Julius Honka, Curtis McKenzie, Patrick Sharp, Mattias Janmark and Ales Hemsky
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Jason Spezza
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Brett Ritchie
Lauri Korpikoski – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves
Jiri Hudler – Devin Shore – Adam Cracknell
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jordie Benn
Dan Hamhuis – Stephen Johns
1) Several Stars forwards opted out of the morning skate, so there were no line rushes. Given Tuesday night’s success, though, don’t expect Lindy Ruff to make any significant changes to his lineup.
2) Reinforcing the previous note, Julius Honka, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Patrick Sharp and Curtis McKenzie all skated late, so it’s safe to say they won’t play tonight.
3) Henrik Lundqvist returns to the crease tonight after sitting for the last four games while backup goalie Antti Raanta went on a tear, earning the NHL’s Second Star of the Week honors last week. Lundqvist, one of the top goalies in the league today, has struggled somewhat this season. His goals against average of 2.55 is a career-worst, while his save percentage of .912 is tied for worst. You don’t earn the “elite” label at this level without a good measure of pride, though, so expect “King Henrik” to be a tough nut for the Stars to crack.
4) To get pucks past Lundqvist, the Stars will have to get dirty. Yesterday, Ruff commented that most of Devin Shore’s goals have come from just outside the crease. This morning, Shore said, “I’ve learned that most of the goals – maybe 80 percent – are pretty ugly goals, just going to the net and banging home the loose change. So I’m just focusing on developing the habit of doing that all the time.”
5) Family Ties: Shore played his college hockey at the University of Maine. Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey played at Harvard. Other than the annual Traverse City rookie tournament, the two have never met on the ice, but Shore did play with Vesey’s brother, Nolan, at Maine.
6) Jiri Hudler always aims to please: Hank Williams, Jr., was playing in the Stars dressing room after the morning skate. When asked if he’d selected the music, Hudler replied, “No…Wait, do you like it? Because if you like it, then yes, I did.”