RANGERS vs. LIGHTNING, 7:30 p.m.
First Responders Night
Presented by Northwell Health
Madison Square Garden
NBCSN, 98.7 FM
It would be understandable if the Rangers were feeling a touch of whiplash coming out their two most recent games. If their loss to Boston on Sunday night left them looking for more out of their entire lineup, their win in their previous game against Buffalo gave them a picture of just what that looks like.
The Blueshirts will look to return to the latter and shake off the former when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night to conclude a five-game Garden homestand. But they'll have to do so without Mika Zibanejad, who will sit out his first game in two seasons after being forced from Sunday's match after the first period with an upper-body injury. He remains day-to-day.
Into the mix come one center, Filip Chytil, and one defenseman, Ryan Lindgren, both called up from Hartford on Monday afternoon. Chytil will step into the center slot vacated by Zibanejad to face the Lightning; outside of that, David Quinn said following the Rangers' morning skate at the Garden on Tuesday "our lineup is still up in the air."
Chytil has nine points (3-6--9) in nine games for Hartford this season and is a big reason why the Wolf Pack lead the AHL with an 8-0-0-1 record. He played 75 games for the Rangers a season ago, and he said on Tuesday that the disappointment of not starting the season with the big club lasted "just a couple of hours on the day when I heard that I was sent down. After that, I just tried to focus on what's going to be, and the next practice in Hartford. Just playing hockey and getting back to my game.
"I tried to focus on the small things, on all the things we've been talking about with the coaches," he said. "I think we played good hockey there; we have a good team, and good teammates there."
"If Fil plays the way he has been, he'll be here for a while," Quinn said. "And that's what we're anticipating. This is a guy that we think very highly of, and he did a great job down in Hartford, and he's a guy we'll be counting on moving forward.
"He's here because he earned it."
Lindgren has played in all nine of Hartford's games with a goal and an assist, but the goal was a coast-to-coast gem through five defenders and a goalie. Still, the 21-year-old isn't with the Rangers to produce highlight goals; he arrives as a plus-8 in nine AHL games and brings along the sandpaper that the Rangers' coaches got a good look at throughout the Rangers' Training Camp.
"That's something that I think I bring: I try to get getting people's face and battle hard and win puck battles," Lindgren said. "Getting five games last year, I kind of got a taste of it, and I know what it's like. I definitely think that's going to help."
Lindgren played three games for the Rangers in January, then the final two games of the season in April, but Quinn noted on Tuesday that "he's really improved a lot in a year. From the time that he got here last year, the strides he's made, he's really put himself in a good position.
"We all thought he had a really good camp," the Head Coach said, "and he just went down and continued to progress and do the things he's going to have to do up here."
Behind the defense, Alexandar Georgiev will take his fourth start this season after Henrik Lundqvist has started four of the last five.
Up front, Jesper Fast will return to the lineup after he was a late scratch for personal reasons on Sunday. Ryan Strome will move into Zibanejad's spot on power plays, joining a No. 1 unit that also will include Tony DeAngelo and Kaapo Kakko. DeAngelo - who manned the point with the top power play for the first time on Sunday, when the Rangers went 1-for-5 - and Strome are two of the team's hotter scorers at the moment: DeAngelo has six points (3-3--6) in the last three games, and Strome, who played on Sunday while fighting a flu, extended his points streak four games (2-3--5).
Tampa Bay has yet to have back-to-back regulation wins or back-to-back regulation losses. Last season's Presidents' Trophy winners have struggled to kill penalties so far - they sit 28th in the NHL - including a pair of power-play goals against in their most recent game, a 3-2 overtime loss to Nashville on Saturday.
Steven Stamkos (5-6--11) and last year's League-leading scorer and Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov (3-7--10) lead the way for Jon Cooper's team. Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli, meanwhile, will be gametime decisions; if neither can go, Tampa Bay would have to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
The Lightning are playing the opener of a five-game, two-week excursion that has them parked in New York through the end of the week for three games in the area, then traveling to Stockholm for a pair of games against the Buffalo Sabres. Tampa Bay won't play on home ice again until Nov. 14, when the Rangers come to town.
10 Panarin - 16 Strome - 24 Kakko
20 Kreider - 72 Chytil - 89 Buchnevich
48 Lemieux - 21 Howden - 17 Fast
14 McKegg - 28 Andersson - 42 Smith
25 Hajek - 8 Trouba
18 Staal - 23 Fox
76 Skjei - 77 DeAngelo
18 Palat - 21 Point* -- 86 Kucherov
9 Johnson - 91 Stamkos - 7 Joseph
17 Killorn - 71 Cirelli* -- 37 Gourde
14 Maroon - 13 Paquette - 28 Witkowski
77 Hedman - 55 Coburn
27 McDonagh - 81 Cernak
98 Sergachev - 22 Shattenkirk
Former Ranger Dan Girardi will drop the puck for the ceremonial pregame faceoff. The blueliner played 788 regular-season games over 11 seasons with the Rangers, plus a club-record 122 games in the playoffs. He finished his career with two seasons in Tampa before announcing his retirement on Sept. 20.
Mika Zibanejad was the only Rangers to play in all 82 games last season. He had played in 106 consecutive games overall.
Tony DeAngelo has six points (3-3--3) in the last three games. He is the first Rangers defenseman to have three consecutive multi-point games since Brian Leetch in February 1997.
The Lightning have scored first in just three of 10 games this season; they're 3-0 when they do.
Tampa Bay's penalty kill tied for the top spot in the NHL last season at 85 percent, but so far this year sits at 69.4 percent, good for 28th place. The Lightning have allowed 11 power-play goals in 10 games; they didn't allow 11 until their 20th game last year. They are one of 10 teams without a shorthanded goal after 12 a year ago.
At the same time, the Lightning have allowed 17 goals at 5-on-5, tied for third-fewest in the League.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jacob Trouba has seven points (3-4--7) in his last six games vs. the Lightning.
Victor Hedman has points in five straight games and in nine of Tampa Bay's 10 games this season (2-7--9).