RANGERS vs. CANUCKS, 1 p.m.
Junior Rangers Kids Day
Presented by Party City
Madison Square Garden
MSG Network, 98.7 FM
It has been reinforced to the Rangers as they have traversed this strange schedule over the first half of October: There's no substitute for playing regular games at a normal NHL rhythm.
This much will be reinforced over the last half of October: There's no place like home.
With the schedule finally keeping the Blueshirts busy, now it's time for them to stay home awhile: Five games over the next 10 days at Madison Square Garden - call it six, unofficially, because the Rangers Alumni are in on the action with an afternoon game against the Bruins' alums one week from Sunday. Following the Alumni Classic, the Rangers will face Boston in their 2,000th home game at the current Madison Square Garden.
This is the Rangers' longest homestand of the 2019-20 season, a chance for some traction and some home cooking with games against Arizona, Buffalo, Boston and Tampa Bay.
But it begins with a Sunday matinee against the Vancouver Canucks, who saw their four-game winning streak snapped with a shutout loss in Newark on Saturday afternoon. The Rangers will be playing their third game in less than four days, while the Canucks are on their third of a four-game, six-day trip.
With some stability now in their schedule, David Quinn's Rangers next would like to achieve some stability in their lines, and the busy home slate is sure to grow the sample size for the Head Coach to work with. There were shakeups all around on Friday in Washington, including Chris Kreider playing a rare game on right wing, teaming him with Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin at even strength. Quinn said afterward that "I liked some of the things that line did," but that the game film would give him a full measure.
That film will show a splendid goal late in the second period, Panarin freezing a defenseman with a pass to Kreider in the left corner, then storming the net to get on the end of Kreider's sharp return and cut the Rangers' deficit to one.
Kreider said he could recall "five or six looks exactly like that" in the game. "I mean, I had one early in the first where the guy got a good stick on it," he said. "Then Artie had me in the third where we're just a little bit mistimed, where I jump inside right when the puck goes to the back post. I think that's something that our entire team can do, up and down our lineup, because we have that quickness.
"Every shift I felt like we were half a second here or there away from popping one in."
The Rangers split the season series with the Canucks last year, winning in November at the Garden and dropping a March game in Vancouver that was tarnished by two ejections, including a unwarranted match penalty to Brendan Lemieux. Pavel Buchnevich - who scored in Washington on Friday - picked up his 16th goal of 2018-19 in that game in Vancouver, right around the start of his sprint to the finish: six goals in the Rangers' final 12 games for his first career 20-goal season (he finished with 21).
After getting their first look at one Hughes brother on Thursday night in New Jersey, the Rangers will see another at the Garden on Sunday. Quinn Hughes signed his entry-level contract with Vancouver just three days before the Rangers came to town last March, but couldn't make his NHL debut in that game because of a bone bruise suffered while blocking a shot for Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. He got into five NHL games at the end of last season; in seven games this year, the blueliner has a goal and two assists.
Head coach Travis Green did give Hughes his first look quarterbacking Vancouver's top power-play unit Saturday, though the Canucks finished 0-for-7 against the Devils after going 0-for-5 two nights earlier in St. Louis, and they have yet to score a power-play goal in four road games this season. That top power-play unit includes Elias Pettersson, last season's Calder Trophy winner whose four-game points streak ended in Jersey.
Thatcher Demko made 23 saves in that one and has taken the last three starts for Vancouver while Jacob Markstrom was away from the team for personal reasons. Markstrom returned to serve as Demko's backup on Saturday and should get the nod for Sunday at the Garden.
10 Panarin - 93 Zibanejad - 20 Kreider
89 Buchnevich - 21 Howden - 24 Kakko
48 Lemieux - 16 Strome - 17 Fast
42 Smith - 28 Andersson - 38 Haley/14 McKegg
18 Staal - 8 Trouba
76 Skjei - 23 Fox
25 Hajek - 77 DeAngelo
9 Miller - 40 Pettersson - 6 Boeser
70 Pearson - 53 Horvat - 17 Leivo
79 Ferland - 20 Sutter - 18 Virtanen
59 Schaller - 83 Beagle - 64 Motte
23 Edler - 57 Myers
43 Hughes - 8 Tanev
4 Benn - 51 Stecher
Over the last four seasons, the Rangers are 22-5-4 at the Garden against the Pacific Division.
Henrik Lundqvist's next appearance will be his 861st in the regular season for the Rangers, matching Jean Ratelle for sixth-most all-time in franchise history. In his last 11 starts against Vancouver, Lundqvist is 9-2, including two shutouts, with a 1.80 GAA and .944 save percentage.
With a pair of assists on Friday, Mika Zibanejad has 10 points in five games. His previous best in the first five games of a season was six points in 2016-17, his first season as a Ranger.
Jacob Trouba average of 25:28 per game is sixth-highest in the NHL. His 28:22 on ice Friday in Washington was his highest total since March of 2017.
Vancouver had outscored opponents 19-8 during its four-game winning streak that ended in a 1-0 loss in Newark on Saturday.
The Canucks' power play is 0-for-22 in four road games, and ranks 24th overall at 12.9 percent.
Vancouver is fourth in the League in goals-against at 2.14 per game.
Elias Pettersson has six points in his first seven games after 28-38--66 as a rookie last season. The Canucks have had a Calder Trophy finalist in each of the last two seasons, with Pettersson winning the award in 2018-19 and Brock Boeser finishing second to Mathew Barzal of the Islanders the year before.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Chris Kreider has 3-3--6 in 10 career games against Vancouver, including the first hat trick of his career back in 2013.
Ex-Ranger J.T. Miller leads the Canucks in goals (4) and points (8) through seven games. Miller has 2-3--5 in five games against his former club.