BLUE JACKETS (12-6-3) at RANGERS (11-10-1)
Columbus 6-1-3; New York 3-7-0
This is the only game between Columbus and New York this season. The Rangers defeated the Blue Jackets, 3-1, in their only matchup last season on Oct. 24, 2008. Columbus is 5-3-0 with one tie all time against the Rangers.
The Blue Jackets have been relatively hot recently, while the Rangers have been anything but. Columbus had its three-game winning streak snapped on Saturday but still grabbed a point in the standings with a 4-3 shootout loss to Nashville. The Rangers have lost four of their last five overall, including a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Florida Panthers at home on Saturday, which marked their third loss in a row at Madison Square Garden.
Columbus has been playing quality hockey as of late, winning five of its last seven games. Coach Ken Hitchcock shook things up following a 9-1 blowout loss to Detroit on Nov. 11 and opted to go with backup goalie Mathieu Garon for two consecutive starts instead of reigning Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason
, who was suffering from back spasms. While Garon won both of his starts in the shootout against Anaheim and Edmonton, Mason returned with two solid starts of his own in a 4-1 win over Dallas on Thursday as well as a 45-save performance in Saturday's loss at Nashville. The strong all-around goaltending has catapulted the Blue Jackets into second place in the highly competitive Central Division with 27 points.
New York has given the appearance of being a one-trick pony this season, with superstar right wing Marian Gaborik
(16 goals) being the only skater seemingly capable of putting the puck into the back of the net. The Rangers are now 4-9-1 since winning seven in a row following their opening night loss to Pittsburgh and have yet to reel off two consecutive wins since that streak.
Jackets' captain Rick Nash
has tallied 14 points over his last 13 games, while left wing Kristian Huselius
has totaled seven points over a current four-game scoring streak. For the Rangers, it's no surprise that Gaborik has five goals and four assists over his last six games.
Columbus center Andrew Murray is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Derek Dorsett
may have suffered a concussion Thursday against Dallas and was not in the lineup Saturday. Fredrik Modin hasn't played all season due to a knee injury. For New York, center Brandon Dubinsky
(wrist) and captain Chris Drury (concussion) remain out with long-term injuries.
The Blue Jackets have the League's second-best power play unit, converting on 25.3 percent of their chances with the man advantage. Gaborik's 16 goals plus linemate Vinny Prospal
's six scores account for just over a third of the Rangers' 65 total team goals for this season.
Columbus seems to be settling comfortably into the young season, while New York is desperate to assemble some sort of consistency. The loyal fans at MSG are hankering to see the Blueshirts pick up the pace and return back to the formula that had yielded them so much success earlier this season. This should be an exciting, rough-and-tumble affair, as most of the Rangers' cross-conference games have been so far.