RANGERS vs. STARS, 7 p.m.
Madison Square Garden
MSG+, 1050 AM
David Quinn has made clear that when it comes to his goaltenders, he is prepared to ride a hot hand. By that standard the Head Coach still had a choice to make on Monday, but in the end was always going back to Henrik Lundqvist.
Coming off his 33-save, 1-0 shutout in Detroit on Saturday night, Lundqvist will jump right back into the nets when the Rangers face the Dallas Stars in the opener of a four-game homestand at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist's last four appearances have come on the road, and he will be taking his first start on Broadway since making 39 saves to beat Carolina on Dec. 27. Lundqvist is 5-1 in his last six home starts, and on Monday night the Rangers will be looking to win for the seventh time in their last nine games overall on Garden ice.
When last we saw Lundqvist, he was turning aside 11 shots in each period to backstop the Blueshirts to a taut 1-0 win in Detroit and a sweep of their weekend home-and-home series with the Wings - Igor Shesterkin won the opener with 23 stops. Lundqvist's performance improved upon his historically good numbers against the Red Wings, though his track record against the Stars isn't half bad either: He has faced Dallas 15 times in his career, and held the Stars to two goals or fewer in 12 of them.
When last we saw Chris Kreider, meanwhile, he was walking down the visitors' tunnel in the early stages of Saturday's second period, knocked from the game by a fall and collision with Mika Zibanejad. Kreider was able to take his regular place in Monday's morning skate with his teammates, and will be a gametime decision against the Stars - but regardless of how that shakes out come faceoff time, Kreider's presence on the ice in the morning and the fact that he's a possibility has to come as a huge relief, given how the collision appeared - and Quinn said as much in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's win.
On Sunday, the Rangers called up Phillip Di Giuseppe from Hartford, making it 14 forwards on the roster.
Before leaving Saturday's game, Kreider had the primary assist on Mika Zibanejad's goal that turned out to be the start and the finish of the scoring that night. It came when Zibanejad potted a Kreider rebound on a power play in the first period, and the Rangers, with Lundqvist behind them, held that lead for nearly 48 minutes of play. It was their third shutout win this season, but their first that was that close - the others came by 4-0 and 5-0 scores - and the fact they were able to lock down such a tight lead for so long sent them back to New York with a boost in confidence to start their homestand.
Quinn said on Monday morning that as the game got later and the score remained the same, "I thought we were a lot more practical and didn't put ourselves in a position where we were trying to make plays that weren't there, and we managed the game a lot better in the third period than we did those first two. That's something we've got to continue to learn - we still have to create a mindset where, when I go out there and nothing happens on the shift, that's still a pretty good shift when you're up 1-nothing in a game like that where goals are hard to come by. You've got to understand what type of game it is."
"Just the confidence you get from winning that game 1-nothing, I'm hoping it carries over and we can we can keep that going, and go on a little run here," Zibanejad said. "But we have to get the win tonight. We have to be ready to play a really good team."
That team has allowed the fewest goals in the National Hockey League this season, at 127. But the Stars, coming off a 3-2 overtime win on Saturday in Newark, haven't pieced together back-to-back victories since the last of their six-game winning streak on Jan. 9 - and their last two losses were by a combined 12-3 score.
Joe Pavelski, in his first season in Dallas after 13 years with San Jose, had been stuck on one assist in eight games before potting the 3-on-3 winner to beat the Devils, and other key players have sputtered at the offensive end recently. Fellow longtime-Californian-turned-Star Corey Perry scored his most recent goal on Nov. 19. Further up the lineup, Tyler Seguin, Dallas' leading scorer, has yet to pot one in 2020, with six assists in his last 12 games.
Zibanejad, meanwhile, brings a three-game point streak into Monday night's game. The Rangers have oustcored opponents 34-20 during their 6-2 stretch on Garden ice; Zibanejad has had points on 14 of those goals.
"Every season you're trying to focus on that, to make sure that you make it really difficult for teams to come in here and get points," Zibanejad said of the Garden. "Everyone says it shouldn't matter if you're playing on the road or at home, but I think there's obviously a comfort level of playing at home - not only having your routines at home and everything, but just playing here - that alone is motivation enough to win games."
20 Kreider* -- 93 Zibanejad - 89 Buchnevich
10 Panarin - 16 Strome - 17 Fast
21 Howden - 72 Chytil - 24 Kakko
48 Lemieux - 14 McKegg - 42 Smith
55 Lindgren - 8 Trouba
76 Skjei - 23 Fox
18 Staal - 77 DeAngelo
14 Benn - 24 Hintz - 91 Seguin
13 Janmark - 16 Pavelski - 47 Radulov
11 Cogliano - 12 Faksa - 15 Comeau
34 Gurianov - 18 Dickinson - 10 Perry
23 Lindell - 3 Klingberg
2 Oleksiak - 4 Heiskanen
5 Sekera - 28 Johns
The Rangers will play the 7,000th game, regular season and playoffs combined, in the franchise's 94-year history. Henrik Lundqvist will have played in 1,012 of those games.
Lundqvist's last six home games: 5-1, 2.18 GAA, .934 save percentage.
Artemi Panarin has 16 points (6-10--16) in his last six games at the Garden.
The Rangers' power play is 12-for-33 since over the past month, tops in the NHL. They have scored at least one power-play goal in eight of the 11 games during that span. The Stars' power play is 0-for-14 over the past five games.
Dallas has allowed the first goal in six straight games and 10 of their last 12.
The Stars lead the NHL with eight wins this season when trailing after two periods (8-14-1). The Rangers are 18-1-2 when leading after two.
Dallas has won five of its last six games that have reached overtime. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Joe Pavelski each has scored two OT winners this year; Seguin and Benn have seven in their Stars career, trailing only Mike Modano's nine for the franchise record.
Anton Khudobin has faced the Rangers six times in his career, with a 1.66 GAA and .947 save percentage - but just one win (1-3-2) - in those six meetings.
Twelve of the last 14 Rangers-Stars matchups have been decided by one goal.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Pavel Buchnevich has four points in his three career games against Dallas. The winger has scored twice in the last three games overall, with 11 shots on goal.
Jamie Benn scored just once in his first 20 games this season, then 13 times in the 31 games since, including a pair in Dallas' first game out of the All-Star break against Tampa Bay one week ago. Benn, though, has scored just once in 15 career games against the Blueshirts.
"Our guys obviously are very excited to play in this building -- you're talking about the greatest arena in the country. And you talk to a lot of players around the League, this is their favorite city to play in, and we get to play in it 41 nights a year. Our guys thrive off of it, and we certainly have passionate fans that get into the games, and that always helps."
--David Quinn as his Rangers begin a four-game Madison Square Garden homestand