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GAME DAY: Rangers Sharpen Teeth for Sharks Clash

Expecting 'Desperate' Opponent After Coaching Change; Lemieux a Gametime Decision

by Michael Obernauer

RANGERS at SHARKS, 10:30 p.m.
SAP Center
MSG Network, 1050 AM

GAME DAY
SAN JOSE --
The Rangers are heading into some choppy waters at the Shark Tank but have no intention of merely dipping in their toes.

The Blueshirts play Game 3 of their four-game Western road trip on Thursday night, which for the Rangers will be an opportunity to rebound from a loss in Los Angeles, and for their opponent will be Game 1 of Bob Boughner's tenure behind the bench, one day after the Sharks dismissed Pete DeBoer 33 games into his fifth season as the San Jose Head Coach.

The Sharks have lost five games in a row; they came home from a four-game road trip on Tuesday in which they scored just five goals in losing all four games, precipitating the dismissal of DeBoer and three of his assistants.

"We'll probably see a desperate team where they're doing everything they can to turn their situation around," Marc Staal said. "They're going to be desperate, they're going to be intense, and wanting to make a good impression on the staff coming in. We've really got to be ready for that."

"I'm expecting them to have a real effort, and a pushback I guess, if you want to call it that," added Mika Zibanejad. "At the same time, we come in after a loss in L.A., and for us, it's a response that we want."

That 3-1 loss on Tuesday night in Los Angeles short-circuited the Rangers' three-game road winning streak and five-game road points streak (4-0-1). They allowed a season-low 26 shots on goal in the game, including an empty-netter, but could not seem to skate through the quicksand the Kings made of the neutral zone, nor solve Quick once they did. 

In their own nets the Blueshirts will turn on Thursday night to Alexandar Georgiev, who will look to continue his red-hot run. Georgiev is 4-1 in his last five starts; two of his last four outings have ended in shutouts, including Sunday's 5-0 win over the Golden Knights that kicked off this four-game trip. Georgiev has stopped 169 of the last 174 shots he has seen (.971), dating to the Nov. 23 comeback in Montreal.

"Just his composure and his compete, he's really built this season off of what he did the second half of last year," Quinn said on Thursday. "You go back to that Montreal game, he did a great job of pulling himself together after a tough start and giving us a chance to win that game, and since then he's really played at a high level."

He'll be opposed by Martin Jones, who has an .860 save percentage in losing his last four starts.

Brendan Lemieux was the only Ranger not on the ice for the team's morning skate at SAP Center; the winger will be a gametime decision after Quinn said he came out of the Kings game a little banged up. If Lemieux does not go, former Shark Micheal Haley would check back in after sitting out the last four as the healthy extra forward.

San Jose became the fifth NHL team this season to replace its Head Coach, all of the moves coming since Nov. 20. The first four - the Maple Leafs, Flames, Devils and Stars - each played a game within one day of the coaching change, and all but the Devils won their games.

DeBoer had called the Sharks' game in Nashville on Tuesday "our best 60-minute effort of the trip," but the result was a 3-1 defeat that left them with their second five-game losing streak of the season. San Jose, the NHL's most penalized team, compiled 39 minutes in penalties and faced seven Predators power plays in Tuesday's loss, in which Ryan Johansen's power-play goal with Brent Burns off for elbowing was the game-winner.

Burns has gone nine games without a point and has 5-16--21 in 33 games this season, a year after leading all NHL blueliners with 83 points and finishing as a finalist for the Norris Trophy, an award he won in 2017. His teammate Erik Karlsson won it in 2012 and '15.

But the Sharks are back home to begin a season-long seven game homestand at the Shark Tank, where they are 7-3 in their last 10 games.

"I was expecting a hard game anyway, but you just never know with a coaching change, how quickly can people make changes that are really going to be that impactful right out of the gate?" Quinn said. "But at the end of the day, we expect a hard game regardless of who's coaching the San Jose Sharks."

"It's going to be hard out there," said Zibanejad. "It's going to be a fun game to play."


PROJECTED LINEUPS

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

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

40 Georgiev
30 Lundqvist

SHARKS
9 Kane - 39 Couture - 28 Meier
48 Hertl - 19 Thornton - 62 Labanc
12 Marleau - 23 Goodrow - 86 Blichfeld
20 Sorensen - 7 Gambrell - 68 M. Karlsson

4 Dillon - 88 Burns
44 Vlasic - 65 E. Karlsson
38 Ferraro - 72 Heed

31 Jones
30 Dell


NUMBERS GAME

San Jose's Joe Thornton will become the 12th player to play in 1,600 NHL games. Marc-Edouard Vlasic will play his 999th.

The Rangers are 9-1 in their last 10 games coming off a loss.

On Tuesday in L.A. Kaapo Kakko was the first Ranger rookie to put eight shots on goal since Brandon Dubinsky in March of 2008. Kakko's third-period assist gave him points in four of the last six games.

The Rangers have killed all 11 penalties they've faced in the last four games, while scoring four times on their own power plays. Over the last six games, the PK is 19-for-21 (90.5 percent) with two shorthanded goals.

The Sharks have the NHL's top penalty kill at 88.3 percent, and 94 percent on home ice; they also are the League's most penalized team, with 151 penalties for 416 minutes and an average of 12:36 per game, putting them shorthanded 120 times - all tops in the NHL. The Rangers are third at 12:13 per game.

Evander Kane leads the League in penalty minutes with 75 - of those, 51 have come during the Sharks' current five-game losing streak. Brendan Lemieux, a gametime decision for Thursday's game, is third with 59, but has only seven PIMs in his last 11 games.

San Jose's minus-26 goal differential is worst in the Western Conference, and third-worst in the League.

The Rangers are 13-1 this season when allowing two goals or fewer. San Jose is 9-0-1; their 3-2 shootout loss in Carolina on Dec. 5 ended their 45-game winning streak when allowing two goals or fewer, an NHL record.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brady Skjei has seven points (2-5--7) in six career games against San Jose, including an overtime goal that gave David Quinn his first NHL win last Oct. 11 at Madison Square Garden.

Logan Couture, in his first season as San Jose's captain, leads the team with 29 points (9-20--29) and is one of only two Sharks with a plus rating. Couture has scored seven times in 10 career games against the Rangers.


WHADDYA SAY?

"He's worth everything we gave up and more."

--David Quinn on Adam Fox

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