The Blue Jackets began this all-Eastern Conference road trip eight days ago against the New York Islanders (though they did return home for a brief stay after that game), and tonight, they’ll wrap it up against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
It’s a busy day for the hard-working folks at MSG, too, as the Cleveland Cavaliers knocked off the New York Knicks in a matinee tip-off to begin the day. Then, the changeover crew went to work, lifting the hardwood court to reveal the ice surface beneath, which needed some touching up to get ready for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. puck drop.
What’s sure to be a spirited game between two Metropolitan Division rivals is a game that the Blue Jackets would love to win; two points tonight against the Rangers would ensure a winning road trip (3-2-0) and erase some of the sting from a tough-luck defeat last night to the Montreal Canadiens.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards liked a lot of what he saw from his group last night, but they could only get one puck past Carey Price. They fell behind the eight-ball early, giving up two goals to Max Pacioretty in the first 13 minutes before making it a one-goal game a minute later, but the margin would remain unchanged until an empty-netter in the final minute.
So tonight, it’s a chance for redemption but also a chance to solidify a successful trip before the Jackets come home for a three-game home stand that begins Tuesday night against Buffalo.
“I thought our guys played hard,” Richards said after last night’s game in Montreal. “I thought the guys stuck with it. Once we hit the second and third (period) we were playing our game. We left the ice after the first feeling like we could get back to playing our game.”
CHANGES ON THE BACK END
Richards is making a rather significant lineup change in advance of tonight’s game. James Wisniewski will be a healthy scratch vs. the Rangers, Richards told the media pre-game (first tweeted by Aaron Portzline) and Jordan Leopold will draw into the lineup.
Curtis McElhinney gets the start between the pipes for the second night in a row, and the same 12 forwards and six defensemen will be employed.
Here’s the projected lineup: Hartnell-Johansen-Wennberg, Calvert-Dubinsky-Atkinson, Dano-Anisimov-Foligno, Tropp-Letestu-Boll.
And on the blue line: Connauton-Leopold, Tyutin-Goloubef, Johnson-Savard.
NO HENRIK, NO PROBLEM
There was a little apprehension around the Rangers when it was announced Henrik Lundqvist would miss at least three weeks with a vascular injury suffered when he took a shot off the neck.
All Cam Talbot has done is go 5-1-2 in eight starts since, keeping the Rangers more than above water in the playoff race — they currently own the second spot in the Metropolitan Division and have points in 10 of their last 11 games.
Talbot will start for the Rangers tonight against the Blue Jackets, and he also started in the Rangers’ Oct. 11 visit (the Jackets’ home opener) to Nationwide Arena.