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GAME DAY: Rangers Wrap Up Trip in O.C.

Lundqvist Faces Ducks in Finale of Four-Game Swing

by Michael Obernauer

RANGERS at DUCKS, 4 p.m.
Honda Center
MSG Network, 98.7 FM

GAME DAY
ANAHEIM --
The question was put to David Quinn on Friday: What is the obstacle standing between his Rangers and being able to string together games like the one they just played on Thursday night?

"Anaheim," the Head Coach responded.

Simple enough, indisputable, and tells the story of where the Rangers' focus lies with one more game to play before their ticket home -- a Saturday matinee in Anaheim with a chance to get over the hump with back-to-back victories, and to complete a winning week out West. The Rangers have three games back on Broadway awaiting them next week, but right now the Ducks are all that stand in the way of the Blueshirts boarding their flight home with a 3-1 record on their first Western trip of the season.

"It's a new day, it's a new opportunity, and we've got to take advantage of it," Quinn said.

Henrik Lundqvist will be the man standing in the way of the Ducks, as Quinn will make it an even split of his goaltenders on the four-game trip. Those goaltenders, Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev, together have allowed a mere five goals in the three games so far.

The Rangers will be going for their ninth win in their last 11 games against the Ducks, and they expect to do so with Brendan Lemieux back from what he characterized as an upper-body injury. Lemieux suffered it sometime during Tuesday's game at Staples Center and was forced to watch Thursday's match at the Shark Tank.

On the other hand, Marc Staal's status won't be determined until shortly before faceoff. Staal gritted his teeth through Thursday's victory in San Jose after blocking a shot midway through it, finishing with 18:16 on ice -- including, alongside Brendan Smith back on defense, the majority of the penalty kill with under six minutes to play in a one-goal game that Quinn called "pivotal."

The Rangers are coming off back-to-back games in which they allowed a season low in shots, 26 in L.A. followed by 18 in San Jose -- granted, the Kings were playing with the lead and trying to deaden the game in the late stages; the Sharks were not. San Jose had two shots on the Rangers' net in the third period, during which time the Rangers put four pucks in the other net, starting with Mika Zibanejad's power-play goal that tied the score with 11:11 left.

"That's as good as an all-around period as we've had, at a crucial time too," said Quinn, whose team improved to 5-1-1 in its last seven road games. "You're not going to come upon two bigger situations for your special teams to deliver, and they delivered."

"When we have the right mindset, and we play with pace, and everyone is gapping up like they should, we are a really hard team to play against," said Jesper Fast, whose goal Thursday was his second of this trip. "We get scored on in the third period and we're down one, and then we show some really good character there. We played the best hockey in the game after that."

With Staal and Tony DeAngelo staying off the ice for a maintenance day, along with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome, Smith practiced as a defenseman on Friday, and if Staal can't go Smith would shift back to the blue line against the Ducks. The flexibility Smith provides is one major reason the Rangers set out on this trip last Saturday carrying just 19 skaters.

Staal has played four games since returning from a monthlong absence that stemmed from blocking a shot. "He's played really well since he's been back, and that (Sharks game) to me exemplifies the way he's played," Quinn said of Staal. 

"But you know, you walk into our training room -- there's a cost to winning, and it usually entails ice bags and wraps. And that's why we had so many guys taking maintenance days today. You gotta pay a price to win."

The Ducks put 37 shots on Jonathan Quick's net on Tuesday but had just one goal, by Derek Grant, to show for it in a 2-1 loss to the Kings, Anaheim's third defeat in four games and 13th in their last 17 (4-9-4) since Nov. 3. They have been held to two goals or fewer in eight of those 17 games, and their 82 goals are even with the Kings for fewest in the Western Conference.

Anaheim's blue line, though, is becoming whole again with the return this week of Josh Manson after 19 games with an MCL injury; he and Hampus Lindholm (lower body) together missed most of November. The Ducks acquired defenseman Erik Gudbranson from Pittsburgh at the end of October, while Cam Fowler has played in all 32 of Anaheim's games and is fourth on the team with 16 points (6-10--16).

Behind them, John Gibson has taken three straight starts and his career .887 save percentage in seven games against the Rangers is his lowest against any opponent, so 39-year-old Ryan Miller could be in line to get the nod on Saturday.

Anaheim began the season 6-1 on home ice; in the 10 games since, they've gone 2-6-2 and scored 20 goals. Ducks Coach Dallas Eakins called Thursday's game against the Kings "a good team effort. But again," he added, "we've got to find a way to not just get the puck to the goal line a couple times, but over it."


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
*Gametime decision

30 Lundqvist
40 Georgiev

DUCKS
34 Steel - 15 Getzlaf - 61 Terry
67 Rakell - 39 Carrick - 33 Silfverberg
53 Comtois - 14 Henrique - 25 Kase
20 Deslauriers - 38 Grant - 24 Rowney

47 Lindholm - 42 Manson
4 Fowler - 6 Gudbranson
76 Mahura - 5 Holzer

30 Miller
36 Gibson


NUMBERS GAME

Artemi Panarin has 41 points in his first 31 games as a Ranger. Only three other Rangers have cleared 40 points in their first 31 games with the club: Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky and Marian Gaborik.

Panarin's third goal of Thursday's win was the Rangers' 100th goal of the season, in their 31st game. They scored their 100th goal in Game 37 last season.

The Blueshirts are 4-1 in their last five road games, outscoring opponents 19-8.

Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Miller are the NHL's winningest goaltenders in the 15 years that shootouts have existed, Lundqvist with 61 shootout wins and Miller with 59. 

Derek Grant's power-play goal against L.A. on Thursday was the Ducks' 10th PPG of the season, tied with Ottawa for fewest in the League. But Anaheim has scored power-play goals in back-to-back games.

The Ducks, last in the NHL with 196 in 2018-19, are fifth from the bottom this season at 2.56 per game.

Anaheim is 8-0-1 when scoring first, 3-11-2 when allowing the first goal.

Ryan Getzlaf has one goal and 10 assists in his last five games against the Rangers.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brett Howden had three points in the two games against Anaheim in his rookie season, including his first career multi-point game, a goal and an assist on Nov. 1 at Honda Center.

Derek Grant, who has played for six teams in parts of seven NHL seasons, has nine goals through 32 games this season, only three shy of his career high set in 66 games in 2017-18 during his first stint with the Ducks. Two of his nine goals were his first career shorthanded goals.

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