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GAME DAY: Rangers Seek Strong Finish in Vancouver

Close Out Canada Trip & Season's First Half vs. Streaking Canucks

by Michael Obernauer

RANGERS at CANUCKS, 10 p.m.
Rogers Arena
MSG Network, 98.7 FM

GAME DAY
VANCOUVER --
On Saturday night the Rangers will wrap up their longest road trip of the season, and hit the halfway point of their 2019-20 campaign. They have a chance against the Vancouver Canucks to even up their record on a four-game trip around Canada, and Jesper Fast had one word to describe what will be required.

"Commitment," the Ranger winger said, following the team's morning skate at Rogers Arena on Saturday. "The last couple games we've been our worst enemy a little bit, and put ourselves in a bad spot. We need a full team effort -- good structure, good defense and working hard. That's what we need to focus on."

The challenge comes against a Canucks team that has won six consecutive games, and has scored 28 goals during the winning streak. Five of those six wins have come at Rogers Arena, where the Canucks are 13-5-1 this season, and where they play their last game on Saturday night before heading East on a five-game road trip.

The Rangers, meanwhile, are completing their four-game traverse of Canada, one that began with a victory in Toronto and concludes on the other side of the continent.

"We have an opportunity to go have a .500 road trip -- obviously we want more," David Quinn said Saturday, "but you go take care of business tonight, you get .500, get back home, and get some rest. And we all know what's in front of us."

After Saturday, 10 of the Rangers' next 13 games will be on home ice. But first things first, Fast said: "Big game for us here tonight."

Saturday's match will have the throwback look of some massive games from the past, too: The Canucks will wear their black '90s-vintage "Flying Skate" sweaters, dressing the night in the colors of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final -- and the Canucks plan to welcome back players from that season's Western Conference championship team that lost to the Blueshirts in seven.

Ten players on the Rangers' current roster had not yet been born during that Cup Final. One of them is Adam Fox, the rookie blueliner who has piled up five assists over the last two games, including helpers on all three of the Rangers' goals on Thursday night in Calgary. In fact, over the past four games, each member of the right side of the Rangers' defense corps -- Fox, Jacob Trouba and Tony DeAngelo -- has at least four points apiece, 13 points in all, including DeAngelo's overtime winner to start this road trip in Toronto and Trouba's power-play goal that got the Rangers' attack started against the Flames.

Another of them is 23-year-old Alexandar Georgiev, who will take the Rangers' nets looking to win for the seventh time in his last eight road starts. At the other end will be Jacob Markstrom, who on Friday was named a replacement in the NHL All-Star Game for Marc-Andre Fleury, and who on Saturday will try to extend his personal winning streak to six games, which would match the career best set last season.

Markstrom was the man in goal at Madison Square Garden back on Oct. 20, when he had to stare down a barrage of 17 Ranger shots in one of their best periods of the season's first half. The Swede let only one of those 17 get past him and was the reason the Canucks snuck out of the Garden with a 3-2 win that afternoon.

Saturday's game will be a return to a rink that Kaapo Kakko called "a special place for me," the place where he scored the tournament-winning goal for Finland in last year's World Junior Championships, then where he heard his name announced as the Rangers' top Draft pick only six months ago. And he comes back here looking to ride momentum after scoring his seventh goal this season and adding an assist against the Flames on Thursday.

"I thought he had his best game in a while in Calgary, not only just because of the goal," Quinn said Saturday. "Even leading up to the goal you could see there was an assertiveness to his game, and there was a pace to his game that he's going to need to have success.

"I don't whether Finland beating the U.S. (on Thursday at the World Juniors) had something to do with it, but he certainly was bopping around like he had scored the winner that night. But I really liked this game."

The Canucks are seeking their first seven-game winning streak since December of 2013 under John Tortorella. Their sixth straight win wasn't the prettiest, a 7-5 victory over the Blackhawks in which they trailed at one point 4-2, and in which Markstrom allowed five goals for the fourth time this season.

Ex-Ranger J.T. Miller matched a career high with four points in the game (a goal and three assists), and three of his teammates collected three points, including Elias Pettersson, the 21-year-old reigning Calder Trophy winner who leads the Canucks in goals (19) and points (44).


PROJECTED LINEUPS

RANGERS
10 Panarin -- 16 Strome -- 17 Fast
20 Kreider -- 93 Zibanejad -- 89 Buchnevich
21 Howden -- 72 Chytil -- 24 Kakko
42 Smith -- 14 McKegg -- 29 Fogarty

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

40 Georgiev
30 Lundqvist

CANUCKS
9 Miller -- 40 Pettersson -- 6 Boeser
70 Pearson -- 53 Horvat -- 21 Eriksson
26 Roussel -- 88 Gaudette -- 18 Virtanen
64 Motte -- 83 Beagle -- 59 Schaller

43 Q. Hughes -- 8 Tanev
23 Edler -- 51 Stecher
5 Fantenberg -- 57 Myers

25 Markstrom
35 Demko


NUMBERS GAME

The Rangers lead the NHL in goals (28) and points (78) by players age 21 or younger. The latest boost to those numbers came on Thursday in Calgary, in which Fil Chytil and Kaapo Kakko each scored and Kakko, Adam Fox and Brett Howden combined for five assists.

Fox has five assists in the last two games, and is the Rangers' first rookie defenseman with multiple assists in back-to-back games since Sergei Zubov in February 1993.

Kaapo Kakko's 16 points are tied for the most in franchise history by an 18-year-old, and his seven goals are one shy of the club mark set by current Canucks assistant coach Manny Malhotra in 1998-99.

Alexandar Georgiev's recent six-game road winning streak was tied for the third-longest by a goaltender in Rangers history, behind Mike Richter's eight-game run in 1996-97 and Dave Kerr's seven-game streak in 1934-35.

The Rangers were 2-for-3 on power plays in Calgary and are 4-for-9 (44.4 percent) over the last four games.

Vancouver leads the League with 40 power-play goals; their power-play efficiency stands fourth, at 26.7 percent.

Elias Pettersson, the Canucks' leading scorer, and J.T. Miller, who is second, each has nine points in their last six games.

Jay Beagle has scored once in 32 games this season -- and it was the shorthanded game-winner against the Rangers on Oct. 20 at the Garden.

Brock Boeser has points in each of the Canucks' six straight wins.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Mika Zibanejad has scored nine goals in the last 10 games overall, and 11 of his 16 goals this season have come on the road. The centerman has 11 points in his last 10 games against the Canucks.

Quinn Hughes, the seventh-overall Draft pick in 2018, has 29 points (4-25--29) through 40 games this season, second among rookie defensemen (Adam Fox is third). His 21:16 on ice per game leads all rookies.

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