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GAME DAY: Blueshirts Back from Break to Face Canes

Lundqvist Starts in Final Garden Game of the Decade

by Michael Obernauer

Madison Square Garden
MSG Network, 98.7 FM

When the Rangers reconvened on Friday morning it was a bit more than a Garden-variety pregame skate, in more ways than one. For one thing, the Blueshirts were beginning their gameday routine in Westchester this time rather than at Madison Square Garden, and it being their first time on the ice together following the three-day Christmas break, there was a little more asked of them, a little more tempo to their drills, than is customary on a gameday.

With the Garden occupied during the day, the Carolina Hurricanes opted to hold their morning skate even further from Broadway than the Rangers: They skated back in Raleigh and were scheduled for a midday flight to New York.

Both teams face the challenge of returning from three idle days, but it is a shared challenge.

"And it is a challenge," David Quinn said on Friday. "Hopefully they used the days wisely and took care of themselves and are rested, because that's what it's all about. You get a chance to take three days off in late December it's an opportunity to recharge the battery, and I think a lot of what's going to happen tonight will be dictated by which teams take care of themselves over these last three days. But I liked our energy today."

"You just kind of get your legs under you as fast you can -- and don't get caught out there," added Jacob Trouba, the Rangers' ice-time leader at nearly 23 minutes a night. "Your body will get back pretty quick. But early on you really have to be smart in the game you're playing."

The Rangers and Canes are two out of 10 NHL teams who will restart their schedule post-Christmas with a Friday-Saturday back-to-back set, and it begins for both of them Friday night on Broadway in the Rangers' final home game of 2019, and of the 2010s. It is their third meeting this season, with Henrik Lundqvist taking the Rangers' nets and all indications pointing to Kaapo Kakko rejoining their lineup as they seek their seventh win in the last eight games against Metropolitan Division opponents.

Lundqvist will face the Canes for the third time in 2019-20, not least because of what he did in the first two, stopping 86 of 90 shots altogether (.956). On Nov. 7 in Raleigh he stole the show and the two points, with 22 saves in the first period and 45 on the night. He followed that up with 41 stops at the Garden on the night before Thanksgiving, when the Rangers built up a three-goal lead in the first period and the goaltender saw it home from there. 

It all added to Lundqvist's immaculate career numbers against the Hurricanes, in which he is a career 32-12-1, and 23-4 spanning the past 10 seasons. Friday night's game will be the Rangers' third straight with Lundqvist in goal, with the back-to-back's second leg looming on Saturday night in Toronto.

It would be the rest of the Rangers' preference not to let Lundqvist see the kind of workload in the third matchup with Carolina that he did in the first two, an average of 45 shots. "Carolina's got a ton of speed, and they try to play real up-tempo-style game, and they love to shoot," said Tony DeAngelo, who has seven points in nine career games against the Canes, two assists this season. "One thing we're trying to do more of, they love to do -- they shoot everything. That last game we gave them too much space, too much time, and even though we won because Hank played great. We're going to try to make sure we limit that tonight."

Kakko, who this time last year was suiting up for Finland in the World Junior Championships, is expected to suit up in his 33rd game for the Rangers on Friday night, and his first since Dec. 20. In that game, against the Maple Leafs, the 18-year-old rookie blocked a shot off his skate toward the end of the first period, and while he continued in that game he sat out the next two, against Anaheim on Sunday and in Philadelphia on Monday.

Just about the time the Rangers were arriving at Wells Fargo Center on Monday night for their pre-Christmas finale, the Hurricanes were in Toronto wrapping up a loopy game to head into their own break, an 8-6 loss to the Leafs in which both teams held, and squandered, leads of multiple goals.

The Leafs built up an early 3-0 lead in that one, on only seven shots against James Reimer, but one Petr Mrazek replaced him the Canes came back with five straight and six of the next seven goals -- the first two coming from Martin Necas in the 20-year-old's first career multi-goal game, during a career-best four-point night.

His second assist made it 6-4 Canes in the third period; Toronto finished the game with four unanswered and Necas called it "probably the craziest game I've ever played professionally."

"It was probably really entertaining for people watching," added Erik Haula, "but that was brutal."

The Hurricanes, who have a seven-game homestand after this game, held their own post-Christmas/pregame skate at PNC Arena on Friday morning, with the unusual approach of flying into town on the day of the game. Neither Warren Foegele nor Brock McGinn were present because of travel issues returning from the break; those two planned to meet their teammates in New York, and Coach Rod Brind'Amour said "They better be the two best players tonight."


10 Panarin -- 16 Strome -- 17 Fast
20 Kreider -- 93 Zibanejad -- 89 Buchnevich
48 Lemieux -- 72 Chytil -- 24 Kakko
14 McKegg -- 21 Howden -- 42 Smith

76 Skjei -- 8 Trouba
55 Lindgren -- 23 Fox
18 M. Staal -- 77 DeAngelo

30 Lundqvist
40 Georgiev

37 Svechnikov -- 11 J. Staal -- 13 Foegele
21 Niederreiter -- 20 Aho -- 86 Teravainen
18 Dzingel -- 56 Haula -- 88 Necas
23 McGinn -- 71 Wallmark -- 48 Martinook

74 Slavin -- 19 Hamilton
6 Edmundson -- 22 Pesce
51 Gardiner -- 57 T. van Riemsdyk

47 Reimer
34 Mrazek


Marc Staal will skate in his 861st career game, tying Jean Ratelle for seventh-most in Rangers history -- sixth-most among skaters, fourth-most among defensemen.

Ryan Strome will play his 100th game as a Ranger.

The Rangers are 17-1 against the Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden dating to February 2011.

Henrik Lundqvist is 9-1 with a 1.50 GAA and a .959 save percentage in his last 10 games against the Hurricanes. Over his last 27 games vs. Carolina, the numbers are 23-4/1.69/.948.

Artemi Panarin has a five-game point streak against the Canes, and multiple points in each of his two games against them as a Ranger.

All-time against the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise, the Rangers are 50-18-4-2 at the Garden.

The Rangers and Hurricanes are tied for the NHL lead with eight shorthanded goals apiece. Mika Zibanejad and Sebastian Aho share the League lead with three each, along with Ottawa's Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Carolina's 8-6 loss in Toronto on Monday was tied for the highest-scoring game in the NHL this season, was only the second time since relocating to Carolina that the Canes had scored as many as six goals in a loss (they lost 7-6 in Calgary on Dec. 6, 2011).

Dougie Hamilton's 35 points (12-23--35) rank second among NHL defensemen, behind Washington's John Carlson.

Jordan Staal will play in his 500th game as a Hurricane.


Mika Zibanejad has points in five of his last six games, and multiple points in four of those. He missed a month to an upper-body injury earlier this season, making his return on Nov. 27 at the Garden against the Hurricanes and scoring just 2:54 into the match. It was his 17th point in his last 15 games against Carolina.

Warren Foegele, who missed the Hurricanes' morning skate in Raleigh because of travel issues, has scored four times in six career games against the Rangers, including in each of his last two games at the Garden.

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