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GAME DAY: Georgie Jumps In as Rangers Hit the Road

Season's First Trip is Senators' Home Opener

by Michael Obernauer

Canadian Tire Centre
MSG Network, 98.7 FM

The excitement of Thursday's season opener was still lingering in the air, and the topsy-turvy nature of the game still wearing on David Quinn, when the Rangers departed for Ottawa on their first road trip of the 2019-20 season. Now they'll look to go and spoil someone else's home opener.

The Blueshirts pay a visit to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night for road game No. 1, leaving their first home game ecstatic with what they see from their new arrivals, and confident they understand what needs tidying up in the wake of Thursday's 6-4 Garden victory over Winnipeg. The season opener came with no shortage of the excitement fans love, nor the unpredictability coaches loathe. And while Quinn wasn't about the deny that it was fun, he figures it's best that his team can move past it now.

"There was an awful lot of emotion and electricity in the building," Quinn said after his 1-0-0 Rangers practiced on Friday in Westchester. "And I think there were real nerves for guys last night. I think our guys are looking forward to getting back on the ice."

They'll hit the ice in Ottawa with a couple lineup tweaks, most visibly in the nets, where Alexandar Georgiev will make his season debut two days after Henrik Lundqvist made 43 saves in career victory No. 450. With the Rangers facing six off days following Saturday night's game, Quinn had in mind all along to get Georgiev's feet wet before that layoff. On Friday, the Head Coach noted Lundqvist's heavy workload in the opener but said, "I was going to come with Georgie regardless."

In front of Georgiev will be a different look to a couple pairs on the blue line, with the rookies taking a spin with new partners: Adam Fox will go with Brady Skjei, and Libor Hajek with Jacob Trouba. Quinn has an even lefty-righty split on the blue line (plus utility man Brendan Smith, a lefty shot), and with half of the defense corps consisting of two rookies and a newcomer, the Head Coach is using the early-season games to take a look at what fits best where. "With our D corps, with two young guys that have never played the league, there's a lot of things that go into putting the pairs together," he said.

Fox and Skjei got to know one another as teammates on the American team at the World Championships this past spring, with the occasional shifts as partners. "Brady's a great guy and a great player, and he makes it easy on us," said Fox, the 21-year-old Long Island product who had a pack of family and friends at the Garden for his NHL debut on Thursday.

With no changes up front, the Artemi Panarin-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich line that was a combined plus-10 on Thursday night will stay intact, as will the unit centered by Brett Howden, which provided a major impact on the win. Howden scored the winning goal with 4:09 left off his own faceoff win, and a rebound of Jesper Fast's drive. Brendan Lemieux was on with that line at the time of the winner, but it was Vlad Namestnikov earlier in the game when that unit turned in an extended shift in the Jets' zone, leaving behind the gassed Winnipeg defenders who allowed Marc Staal's season-opening score.

"That line was productive 5-on-5, I thought they did some good things," Quinn said. "We were having a hard time with (Mark) Scheifele's line no matter who we put out there, they were a handful for sure. But overall I thought that line was pretty effective."

Howden's assessment? "I thought we were okay here and there," the 21-year-old said. "We've got so much work ethic on our line, and I think if we play like that we feed off of each other. We have the capability to produce and make plays, but saying that, we want to be held accountable, and we want to be out there in key moments."

The Rangers spent a good part of Friday's practice on breakouts, something that they widely felt, in Howden's words, they "were a little too loose with" against a Jets team with an effective forecheck. "I thought maybe too often our forwards would leave our D a little bit on an island in our end from a breakout standpoint," Quinn said. "But those are things we worked on today. I think we'll be better across the board (on Saturday)."

They'll face a Senators team whose 64 points brought up the rear in the NHL last season, and who were the only team to allow more than 300 goals on the year (301). They allowed five to open their 2019-20 season in Toronto on Wednesday night, in a 5-3 loss to the Maple Leafs. The Sens actually grabbed an early lead in that game, when second-year winger Brady Tkachuk, Quinn's former charge at Boston University who turned 20 two weeks ago, scored 25 seconds in.

Tkachuk and defenseman Thomas Chabot, 22, spearhead the Senators' youth movement under first-year NHL coach D.J. Smith, who spent the past four seasons as an assistant to Mike Babcock in Toronto. For the time being, at least, that youth movement does not extend to the goal crease, where 38-year-old Craig Anderson will take his second start of the season and his eighth in the Senators' last nine home openers.

10 Panarin -- 93 Zibanejad -- 89 Buchnevich
20 Kreider -- 16 Strome -- 24 Kakko
90 Namestnikov -- 21 Howden -- 17 Fast
48 Lemieux -- 28 Andersson -- 42 Smith

25 Hajek -- 8 Trouba
18 Staal -- 77 DeAngelo
76 Skjei -- 23 Fox

40 Georgiev
30 Lundqvist


Alexandar Georgiev started 30 games for the Rangers last season, which he finished with a flourish: in his final four starts he went 3-0-1 with a 1.71 GAA and .955 save percentage. 

Marc Staal will play in his 842nd regular-season game as a Ranger, passing Vic Hadfield for seventh most in Rangers history.

Jacob Trouba's goal and two assists in Thursday's opener made him the first defenseman in franchise history to have three points in his Rangers debut.

Brady Tkachuk's 22 goals last season were second among NHL rookies to Vancouver's Elias Pettersson (28). Tkachuk, who scored 25 seconds into Ottawa's opener Wednesday, says he is playing leaner but has added around 15 pounds, to 210, since he came into the League a year ago.

Ex-Ranger Artem Anisimov was on the ice for all four Leafs even-strength goals Wednesday night and finished minus-4 in his Senators debut.


Entering Friday's games, and two days into the season, Mika Zibanejad was the NHL's leading scorer with four points (1-3--4) in one game. Zibanejad, drafted No. 6 overall by the Senators in 2011, has scored four times in six games against his former team.

Thomas Chabot's 55 points ranked him 10th among NHL defensemen last season. Chabot, Jacob Trouba and Morgan Rielly were the only defensemen age 25 or younger to crack 50 points.

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