The Rangers come back from the All-Star break to face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, for those who have been under a rock the last few weeks, the Rangers are in the process of rebuilding it seems as Ryan McDonagh, Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash are in the mix to be traded.
Now, that is out of the way. The Leafs are coming off a 5-0 smack down on the Islanders Wednesday night. The Leafs currently sit comfortably in the three spot in the Atlantic with a 29-18-5 record, 63 points, +21 goal differential. While the Rangers are playing their first game of the second half, currently sitting outside a wild card spot, 6th in the division with a 25-20-5 record, 55 points, +2 goal differential.
Coming out of the the All-Star break the Rangers are riding a 4-6-0 record and struggling to score and or play both sides of the puck well. The Leafs coming into this game are 3-5-2, also doing their fair share of struggling, but first game back they toppled the Islanders which is a positive sign for Leaf fans not Ranger fans.
What can we expect tonight?
The Leafs are going with back up goaltender Curtis McElhinney, on the year McElhinney has 4 wins a 2.25 goals against (20 goals allowed), .925 save percentage and has started one time during the month of January. This can means two things, the Leafs will either be ratcheting up their defense and cracking down, which ultimately may take away from their offensive production. Or, they play the game the same as if Anderson is in net. Either way the Rangers getting the Leafs off a back to back is a plus. Also factor in the Leafs have Morgan Reilly, Ron Hainsey and Roman Polak out tonight so that means they are sporting three defenseman who have a combined 57 game experience at the NHL level. Also the Leafs have to travel from Toronto to New York in a day, this will be a factor in tonight’s game.
Also, the Leafs saw two rookies score goals last game, which accounted for 2/5 of their goals, so that won’t happen again, no rookie luck in store for this game. The Leafs are on a three game winning streak (accounting for games before break) scoring, 12 goals during that span, while only allowing three goals. The Leafs offense has been led by one guy, who is under the age of 20, so that concerns me. The Leafs rank 5th in goals for(163) and 7th in goals per game(3.13), while the Rangers rank 11th with 150 and 9th with an even 3.00.
Players to watch…
The guy to watch tonight for the Leafs is none other than Auston Matthews, even missing 10 games this year, Matthews leads in goals and assists. On the year he has 23 goals, 16 assists and 131 shots. Over the last month he has 6 goals and 2 assists.
Coming off guys to watch, the guy who we need to keep an eye for the Rangers is Rick Nash, he himself has 6 goals, 2 assists over the last month and on the season has 15 goals and 10 assists with 157 shots.
These two have met two times prior to this meeting and Toronto has taken both, the first time they won 8-5 in Toronto on Oct. 7, a ways a way therefore a lot has changed. They met again on Dec. 23 in which Toronto won yet again on Rangers home ice, 3-2. A game that will be very similar to tonight’s game.
Some key notes…
I believe Henrik Lundqvist is in net, neither team held a morning skate so that does not help when determining this. Some minor news though for Toronto Justin Holl (Holl scored his first career goal during first career game vs the Islanders last night) who was an emergency call up will remain in the line up since Ron Hainsey and Roman Polak are likely to miss the game. Now for the Rangers they have kept Anthony De’Angelo up in the NHL as well as Peter Holland while sending down Vinnie Lettieri(who played 10 games, 1 goal, 3 assists) which means Cody McLeod the Rangers recent fourth line grinder signing will make his debut. Coming off the bad news of McLeod playing, good news is that Chris Kreider did skate on his own Wednesday but no timetable to return. More good news, while the Leafs have the best young forward in the NHL who has been firing as of late, the Rangers are the only team in the NHL with eight players who have 10 goals or more, production is spread out but not consistent to say the least.
Projected line up New York Rangers
Nash – Zibanejad – Buchnevich
Miller- Hayes – Zuccarello
Grabner – Holland – Fast
McLeod – Desharnais – Vesey
McDonagh – Holden
Skeji – Staal
Smith – De’Angelo
Projected lineup Toronto Maple Leafs
Hyman – Matthews – Nylander
Marleau – Kadri – Marner
Van Riemsdyk – Boazk – Brown
Komarov – Moore – Kapanen
Gardiner – Zaitsev
Borgman – Carrick
Dermott – Holl