The New York Rangers (30-15-4) come down from the big city to take on the Nashville Predators (33-12-6) tonight for the first time this season. The Rangers come in riding high on a three game win streak while the Predators are hoping to bounce back from an embarrassing 5-2 home loss at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night. They’ll also be looking to gain back some points on the St. Louis Blues, who got shellacked Friday night by the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-1.
New York Rangers
The Rangers are sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, 4th in the fancy Metropolitan Division. Of course, they have played the fewest games in the NHL to this point (49), and sit only four points back from the first place Pittsburgh Penguins in the division with three games in hand. As a team, they are +31 on the year, second only to Tampa Bay at +34 in the East.
rs are lead this year by Rick Nash who is finally living up to his lofty $7.8 million dollar a year contract. Nash has 32 goals this season, which is tied for the league lead with another guy you may have heard of: Alex Ovechkin. It’s not even close as far as the team goes, as the nearest Ranger in goals is a soon to be 40-year-old Martin St. Louis who has 17.
Preds fans can certainly empathize with Rangers fans right now. Their star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist just went down for a month with what’s being called a “vascular injury” after being hit in the throat by a Brad Malone shot on the last day of January (just a terrible month for goaltenders). With their bedrock out of the lineup for the next few weeks, the Rangers will rely upon the services of Cam Talbot in net. Most NHL teams would love to have a goalie of Talbot’s caliber as a starter. He has played in 33 games in his NHL career, and put up a .935 save percentage to go along with 26 wins.
The most piercing eyes in the NHL come back home tonight as Kevin Klein returns to the town that drafted him. This will be the first time he’s been back to Bridgestone since being traded for
some magic beans Michael Del Zotto back in January of last year. Klein leads all Rangers defensemen with 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists) this season and is tied for the lead with Rick Nash in plus/minus at +20.
David Poile is known for making very shrewd trades and getting value out of the players he deals, but last year’s swap with the Rangers may be considered his biggest blunder as GM in quite some time. He sent Klein and his very reasonable contract up to New York and essentially got nothing in return.
The Nashville Predators
While Klein’s 18 points are good for first place among the Blueshirts blue-liners, it would be good for a tie for third here in Nashville. Roman Josi‘s assist on James Neal‘s goal against Anaheim moved him into a tie for first with Shea Weber for points by a defenseman in Nashville. They both have 35 points on the season and are tied for 7th in the NHL in points by defensemen. Next on the team list is Ryan Ellis with 18, who has only played in 40 games this year after going down with an injury back in January.
Colin Wilson just continues to impress this year. After Thursday night, he and Neal have moved into a tie with Filip Forsberg for the team lead in goals with 17. At this point in the season, Wilson has surpassed his career numbers in goals and points already. He hasn’t just surpassed them, though, he is on pace to absolutely demolish them.
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The former whipping boy has quite possibly turned his entire career around this season (though it’s too early to tell that for sure) and gone from a disappointment to a hero in the course of 20 something games. While the story line in the beginning of the season was all about Prince Filip, the second half so far has been taken over by the former seventh overall draft pick.
Pekka Rinne should get the start again today for the Predators. He’ll be looking to bounce back after giving up four goals on Thursday to the Ducks. During the first two periods Rinne looked antsy in the crease and didn’t seem to really settle down until about midway in the third. He also made some very… questionable decisions while handling the puck. Hopefully he got all that out of his system and is ready for the stretch run. Rinne has only faced the Rangers once in his career, all the way back in November of 2010. Rinne lost in the shootout 2-1 despite only giving up one goal in regulation and overtime.
Last season the Predators split with the Rangers, each winning on the other team’s home ice.
The puck drops at 2 p.m. Central and can be seen on FS-TN.