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Preview: Rangers at Blue Jackets

Chris Kreider expected to return for New York; Columbus eyes seventh straight home win

by Craig Merz / NHL.com Correspondent

RANGERS (13-4-0) at BLUE JACKETS (8-4-2)

7 p.m. ET; FS-O, MSG, NHL.TV

 

Rangers team scope

The New York Rangers have won three straight and 11 of their past 13 games. They've scored at least three goals in nine consecutive games (8-1-0). The Rangers lead the NHL with 4.24 goals per game. Columbus is second with 3.36. New York has won seven straight against Columbus, but center Derek Stepan is looking forward to playing the Blue Jackets under former Rangers coach John Tortorella. "A lot of us know the coach," he said. "The coach demands a high compete level for them. It's a good test for us to come into a building with a team that's playing at a high level." Stepan will play Friday after taking a shot to the foot Tuesday in a 7-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks. He did not practice Thursday but skated Friday morning. "There's discomfort there but nothing that I'm concerned about going into tonight," he said. Forward Chris Kreider is expected to return after missing two games with injuries that he said Thursday were related to neck spasms that caused him to miss four games earlier this season. He said the symptoms were similar to what could be experienced with post-concussion symptoms but added testing proved that they weren't. "Luckily I got the best news possible," he said. "There's definitely a sense of peace of mind, just continue to treat the neck-based stuff and go from there." Kreider has three goals and eight assists in 11 games. 

 

Blue Jackets scope

With a win against the Rangers, the Columbus Blue Jackets can set a franchise record with their seventh straight home victory. Columbus won six straight in 2007-08 and 2014-15. The Blue Jackets have three overtime victories during the streak. Tortorella said Thursday that the Blue Jackets can't get caught up in looking at the Rangers' record. "All we're concerned about is how we're going to play against a very good team. We have enough business of our own to worry to put our focus anywhere else." Columbus gained attention by defeating the Montreal Canadiens 10-0 on Nov. 4 and the St. Louis Blues 8-4 on Nov. 12, but Tortorella said this game should not be billed as a possible "statement" for the Blue Jackets. "To gain respect in this League it has to be consistency," he said. "I think we're taking steps in the right direction but that's a question we'll have to answer some time in March." Columbus is 6-1-1 in the past eight games. The Blue Jackets were 4-10-0 after 14 games last season.

 

Rangers projected lineup

Chris Kreider -- Derek Stepan -- Rick Nash

J.T. Miller -- Mika Zibanejad -- Mats Zuccarello

Jimmy Vesey -- Kevin Hayes -- Jesper Fast

Michael Grabner -- Brandon Pirri -- Oscar Lindberg

Ryan McDonagh -- Dan Girardi

Marc Staal -- Nick Holden

Brady Skjei -- Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Adam Clendening

Injured: Pavel Buchnevich (back spasms), Josh Jooris (upper body)

 

Blue Jackets projected lineup

Brandon Saad -- Alexander Wennberg -- Nick Foligno

Boone Jenner -- Brandon Dubinsky -- Cam Atkinson

Matt Calvert -- William Karlsson -- Josh Anderson

Scott Hartnell -- Lukas Sedlak -- Sam Gagner

Zach Werenski -- David Savard

Ryan Murray -- Jack Johnson

Markus Nutivaara -- Scott Harrington

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: None

Injured: David Clarkson (back), Seth Jones (foot), Dalton Prout (back)

 

Status report

Jooris, out since Oct. 26 with a separated shoulder, did not wear a non-contact jersey at practice Thursday. Coach Alain Vigneault said Jooris is getting close but still needs more practices until he is ready to play. "I think I'm on the right timeline," Jooris said. He has played five games this season. The Rangers returned forward Cristoval Nieves to Hartford of the American Hockey League on Thursday. … Harrington is expected to play his second straight game after being a healthy scratch for the first 13 games. He replaced Prout (back spasms) in a 2-1 overtime win against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

 

Who's hot

Hayes has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in nine games. … Atkinson scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Capitals on Tuesday and had four assists against the Blues on Saturday. 

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