Milano, who leads all NHL rookies with four goals (4-0-4), has scored in each of the Jackets' first three games. His three-game goal streak ties a franchise record for a goal streak to open the season, which was set in 2010-11 by Kristian Huselius.
Milano, who scored both Columbus goals in the 2-1 win against the Hurricanes, is slotted at left wing on the fourth line. Coach John Tortorella, however, isn't afraid to use the talented rookie in other situations, including the frenzied play of 3-on-3 overtime.
"It's a tough assignment, yeah," Tortorella said after practice Thursday. "I am not going to play safe, though, and if you watch Sonny [play], he defends it pretty well too. Am I ready to turn away when he screws up an assignment, as far as defending it 3-on-3? Yeah, absolutely, and that could've happened, but he deserved an opportunity to be out there. I watched him in his coverage, and he covered well."
Video: Torts on Dalpe deserving play
Starting in net for the Jackets is Sergei Bobrovsky (2-0-0), who leads the NHL in save percentage (.985) and goals-against average (0.48) through two starts. Bobrovsky will match wits with New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist, whom Tortorella knows from his previous tenure coaching the Rangers.
"These are two guys that I've been fortunate enough to be with," Tortorella said of the goalie matchup. "To watch these two guys prepare, it's something special. Just the inner drive that 'Bob' has, as far as wanting to be the best he can be, that's what makes him a great goalie."
The Jackets will also make a lineup switch up front.
Zac Dalpe will replace Markus Hannikainen on the fourth line, after sitting out as a healthy scratch against Carolina. Hannikainen committed a costly turnover late in the third period against the Hurricanes, which led to a game-tying goal, but Tortorella said the switch isn't related.
"[Hannikainen] is out [Friday], not because of that play, but because I think Dalpe has had a really good camp too," Tortorella said. "There's going to be some interchangeable parts here, as we go through it, because I think Dalpe should play … and I'm not going to ice him for a whole bunch of games."
In other news, Jackets center Jordan Schroeder (upper body) got on the ice with the Jackets at practice, before he was loaned to the Cleveland Monsters on a conditioning assignment. Goalie Joonas Korpisalo missed practice while undergoing a dental procedure, but will be on the bench to back up Bobrovsky.
Right wing Kole Sherwood, who was with the Monsters, was assigned to the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League.
Here's what you need to know to get ready for the Metropolitan Division clash on Thursday:
2017-18 Season: (0-0-0). The teams play three more times this season: Nov. 6 and March 20 in New York and Nov. 17 in Columbus.
All-time: 12-13-0-4; 7-9-0-0 in Columbus
"BY THE NUMBERS"
- 35/2: Number of wins for the Blue Jackets when scoring first last season (35-10-5) and this season (2-0-0).
- 7.4: Average number of goals the Jackets and Rangers combined to score in their five games last season, with Columbus going 3-2-0.
- 7: Games that former Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash is away from 1,000 played in his NHL career.
- 4: Number of goals Milano has in three games and number of goals the rest of the Jackets have combined in that time, scored by four separate players.
Video: Foligno on continuing to progress
SEASONS TO DATE
The Blue Jackets, who will begin their second of 17 back-to-backs this season, are looking to string consecutive wins together for the first time. The victory against the Hurricanes was impressive in the way the game was played, with defense and grit dominating the majority of the game.
"We have to keep our foot on the gas and try to go about our business, but I think we showed ourselves that we can grind also," Tortorella said. "But that's against Carolina, a team that really isn't a grinding team. It's a long year, [and] you have to be able to win puck battles, grind on the boards, take hits to make plays … this team can do it. They know they can. We did it all last year. Just because you add some youth and some skill doesn't mean we change our identity."
The Rangers are looking to turn around a tough start, after dropping three of their first four games and two of their first three games at Madison Square Garden - including a 3-1 loss Tuesday to the St. Louis Blues.
New York's power play has produced five of its 10 goals thus far, that and a top line that's clicking are a couple of bright spots thus far for the Rangers. Injured forward Jesper Fast, who had offseason hip surgery, is nearing a return but is likely out Friday.
Lundqvist will make his fifth straight start in net.
There are only two shutouts and two hat tricks in the all-time series between the Blue Jackets and Rangers. The Jackets had the shutouts, most recently by Marc Denis on Jan. 16, 2002. The Rangers have both hat tricks, most recently done by Michael Grabner last season (Jan. 7, 2017).
"I've got to live with what I brought to them a couple years ago, that safe is death. I have to live with that too. We have discussions as managers and coaches after a game, 'Are we too risky?' You can't talk out of both sides of your mouth, and start pulling back. I think we are a much better team when we let them go." - Tortorella on the risks and rewards of allowing the Jackets freedom to be aggressive
"We've talked about that for the past couple weeks. Are we just going to pass the puck around five or six times on the outside? It looks great, but nothing gets to the net and no one's in the blue [paint]. Or, are we going to try and make a fancy offensive play, where we get three guys flat and have no one coming back on the back check? There has to be a give and take there." - Tortorella on balancing skill with grit
"We're just bouncing people around, in and out, but this is not an indication of just because of one play by [Hannikainen] there at the end of the game, because he played a really good game. [Dalpe] deserves an opportunity, and he's going to get it." - Tortorella on the decision to play Dalpe over Hannikainen
"We've all been in that situation at one time in our careers, and you do, you pick him up right away and you move on. I think that's the only way you handle those things. It's not something that he's trying to do. He's just trying to make a good play there." - Jackets captain Nick Foligno on Hannikainen's turnover against Carolina
"I guess my dad tried putting it in my head to hate the Rangers, because he grew up hating them, but I didn't really mind them too much. I never hated them, but I was never a fan of them." - Milano, who is from Massapequa, NY and grew up a New York Islanders fan
"Coming into this season, everyone has their depth charts and everybody can do all that, but when you're at home working in the summer, you don't think about that. You just control what you can, and that's how hard you work. I know I put in the work this summer, and hopefully would get rewarded for it … that some hockey god was going to reward me for it. I'd like to think that I got a little bit of success from it." - Dalpe on impressing Tortorella in camp and recent practices
Artemi Panarin - Alexander Wennberg - Cam Atkinson
Sonny Milano - Nick Foligno - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Josh Anderson
Pierre-Luc Dubois - Lukas Sedlak - Zac Dalpe
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Jack Johnson - David Savard
Ryan Murray - Gabriel Carlsson
Out: Markus Hannikainen, Scott Harrington, Jordan Schroeder (conditioning assignment)
Injured reserve: Boone Jenner (middle body), Sam Vigneault (hand)
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich
Rick Nash - Kevin Hayes - Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey - David Desharnais - J.T. Miller
Michael Grabner - Paul Carey - Adam Cracknell
Marc Staal - Ryan McDonagh
Brady Skjei - Kevin Shattenkirk
Nick Holden - Steve Kampfer
Out: Brendan Smith, Tony DeAngelo
Injured: Jesper Fast (hip surgery, offseason)