RANGERS vs. DUCKS, 12:30 p.m.
Madison Square Garden
MSG Network, 1050 AM
The Rangers have Mika Zibanejad on a four-game point streak, Artemi Panarin on a six-game point streak, and Pavel Buchnevich signaling what they hope is a breakout with a goal and an assist on Friday night against the Maple Leafs. Amid all that it has been almost under the radar that Chris Kreider lately has been stringing some imposing performances together for the Blueshirts, with the points following right behind.
Kreider has been on the scoresheet in five of the Rangers' last six games, including the last two back-to-back, in which he made a subtly superb pass off a forecheck to set up a Brady Skjei goal on Friday, that coming after he scored his eighth goal of the season on Monday against Nashville during what his Head Coach called a "big night for Chris."
His one game without a point in that six-game stretch? That came last Saturday in Anaheim when the Rangers closed a four-game road trip with a shootout loss that forced them to settle for a 2-1-1 swing through the West Coast.
Kreider and the Blueshirts have another crack at the Ducks just eight days later when the teams meet in a Sunday matinee at Madison Square Garden, as the Rangers begin a back-to-back set that will usher them into the three-day Christmas break.
"His last two games he's been really good, I really like the game he's playing," David Quinn said of Kreider, who will play in career game No. 495 on Sunday. "One of the things he does, he can really skate through zones, from zone to zone, he's got that great speed. And the thing when he's really effective is when he skates in small areas, and he's been doing that the last two games -- shift in and shift out.
"And that line has been good - they were our best line (Friday) night," Quinn said, speaking of Kreider and Jesper Fast centered by Zibanejad, who last Saturday in Anaheim beat John Gibson twice in the game, then again in the shootout.
The Rangers have had just seven days and two games in between their 2019-20 matchups with Anaheim. On Sunday they'll have Henrik Lundqvist back in the nets to face the Ducks once more - Lundqvist made 39 saves in the trip finale in Anaheim last Saturday, and has stopped 62 of 67 shots (.925) over his last two starts.
But the Blueshirts may have to play the rematch without Kaapo Kakko, who blocked a shot off his skate laces near the end of Friday's first period against the Maple Leafs and was held out of practice Saturday. The Ducks could be missing an important piece, too: Ryan Getzlaf sat out his team's 6-5 shootout win over the Islanders on Saturday, after having made an early exit from Friday's practice because of a flu bug that had been working its way around the Ducks' room.
The Rangers will evaluate Kakko's status at the rink on Sunday morning, but if the rookie can't go, Brett Howden is slated to line up on the wing, something he has done rarely during his first 100 NHL games but something Quinn is confident he can handle just fine.
"I think he's smart enough to understand the differences in what his responsibilities are as a wing, and I think it might free him up a little bit from being down low all the time," Quinn said. "I have no problem with it putting him on the wing and knowing he's going to be effective player.
He added of Howden: "This is a guy that comes here every day, plays with the right intentions, wants to do the right thing. You never question his effort or his intentions."
The Ducks were outscored 7-2 in dropping the first two of their four-game road trip, Tuesday and Wednesday against the Flyers and Devils, then found themselves in a shootout, in the literal and figurative sense, on Saturday afternoon on Long Island. Jakob Silfverberg scored the decider in the shootout, as he did last Saturday against the Blueshirts. More notable, though, for the Ducks - the Western Conference's lowest-scoring team - was scoring more than four goals for the first time since a 7-4 win over Winnipeg on Oct. 29, and doing so against one of the NHL's stingier teams.
Beyond Getzlaf's illness, Tuesday's loss in Philly was doubly debilitating for the Ducks, who saw three players hurt. Most severe was Troy Terry's fractured leg, which will cost him between two and three months; Derek Grant, fifth on the team with nine goals, will miss the next four-to-six weeks because of a shoulder sprain; and blueliner Jacob Larsson suffered an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
The Ducks have called up four players from AHL San Diego on their current trip; one of them, Sam Carrick, drew into the spot vacated by Getzlaf on Saturday against the Isles and scored shorthanded in the first period, his first NHL goal since March 26, 2015.
10 Panarin - 16 Strome - 89 Buchnevich
20 Kreider - 93 Zibanejad - 17 Fast
48 Lemieux - 72 Chytil - 24 Kakko
14 McKegg - 21 Howden - 42 Smith
76 Skjei - 8 Trouba
55 Lindgren - 23 Fox
18 Staal - 77 DeAngelo
29 Shore - 14 Henrique - 33 Silfverberg
67 Rakell - 48 Lundestrom - 53 Comtois
49 Jones - 34 Steel - 25 Kase
20 Deslauriers - 39 Carrick - 24 Rowney
47 Lindholm - 42 Manson
4 Fowler - 6 Gudbranson
44 Del Zotto - 5 Holzer
Artemi Panarin, 10th in the NHL in scoring with 44 points, has 10 points (7-3--10) during his six-game point streak.
Mika Zibanejad has seven points (4-37) during his four-game points streak. Zibanejad has 24 points in 21 games this season; 21 of those points have been either a goal or a primary assist.
Ryan Strome has points in 21 of the Rangers' 34 games this season, including eight multi-point games.
Friday's game against the Maple Leafs was the 16th time in the Rangers' last 22 games that they have scored at least three goals. Overall, they are 15-4-2 when scoring at least three.
John Gibson has taken six of the last seven starts for the Ducks. His backup, Ryan Miller, is 15-8-6 with a .921 save percentage in his career against the Rangers, but it has been nearly four years since Miller last faced the Blueshirts, when he stopped 46 of 49 shots in the Rangers' 3-2 overtime win over the Canucks on Jan. 19, 2016.
The Ducks are 3-1 in shootouts this season, with Silfverberg netting the winner on the last two Saturdays, against the Rangers and Islanders. Silfverberg is one of four NHL players with multiple game-deciding goals in shootouts.
Sam Carrick has two career NHL goals, with 1,731 days between them. His seven shots are Saturday against the Islanders were a career high and more than he had in his six games for the Ducks last season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jacob Trouba has 13 points in 17 career games against the Ducks. The 25-year-old blueliner needs four more points to reach 200 in his NHL career.
Adam Henrique has scored in back-to-back games and is second on the Ducks with 11 goals; his next one will be his 50th as a Duck. Henrique will face the Rangers for the 33rd time in his career, with 7-7--14 in the first 32.