RANGERS vs. ISLANDERS, 7 p.m.
Preseason Game 4
Madison Square Garden
So how is Mika Zibanejad's Russian coming along?
"It's nonexistent," Zibanejad said, "but it's working out."
His translator? "It's Buchie," Zibanejad said with a wry smile. That would be Pavel Buchnevich, who sits to Zibanejad's right in the Rangers' practice rink dressing room, and who on Tuesday night will line up to his right for the first time in this preseason. When the Blueshirts hit the Madison Square Garden ice against the Islanders, the line that will start 2019-20 as the Rangers' No. 1 unit will get its first chance to try it out in a game.
Buchnevich will join Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin, the left winger who in his first preseason game as a Ranger wowed the crowd at the Garden by scoring on a blistering power-play one-timer, then made a few fans hold their breath when he left the game in the second period with a mild groin strain. The Rangers lifted him to be extra cautious and expressed no concern that it was anything major, and so Panarin will go back in for his second preseason game on Tuesday.
"It's nice to be able to play with those two. It's been feeling good in practice, hopefully we can carry that into a game," said the multi-lingual Zibanejad, adding about his communication with his linemates: "During practices, the things we want to do, there's just certain key words and phrases that we all just know what it means. It's working fine."
Buchnevich and Zibanejad, of course, know one another well, and last season reached personal milestones together, with Buchnevich reaching 20 goals (he finished with 21) and Zibanejad scoring 30 for the first time in their careers. Part of the preseason objective is getting familiar with their new teammate Panarin.
"I'm just trying to let it happen more than thinking about it," Zibanejad said. "He's such a smart player. I'm trying to just read off of what he does. And I have noticed some things - I'm not going to say them though, I'll keep that to ourselves. But I've noticed a lot of things that he does that can really benefit us as a line. It's going to be a fun process."
Buchnevich's spot had been held for him by Kaapo Kakko, the 18-year-old who also skated for the first time as a Ranger last Wednesday, and who will hit the Garden ice for a second time against the Islanders. With Chris Kreider not in Tuesday's lineup, both Buchnevich and Kakko will go out with the Rangers' top power-play unit, the one that includes Zibanejad, Panarin and Jacob Trouba and which had the Garden buzzing in its four appearances Wednesday against New Jersey. Kakko and Trouba picked up the assists that night on Panarin's scorcher.
At even strength, though, the Rangers, who last played on Saturday night in Philadelphia, have pinpointed some areas they would like to see tidied up in their three remaining tune-up games.
"We've touched on some of the things we've got to be better at, and puck management is number one," David Quinn said. "Over the three (preseason) games we've given up eight scoring chances off of D-zone coverage, which is pretty good. And 27 off the rush, which is incredibly alarming. And a lot of it is just puck management, changes, things of that nature. So we're working on that."
Henrik Lundqvist, who started on Friday in Newark and played half the game - making 21 saves before yielding to Adam Huska - will take his second start of the preseason tonight, and could see more than 30 minutes in this one. Alexandar Georgiev will back him up and see some action, too, his first since last Wednesday.
Brendan Lemieux will be making his preseason debut for the Blueshirts, with Josh Bailey doing the same for the Isles. Thomas Greiss will man the nets and should see the entire game for the Islanders, who defeated the Red Wings in overtime on Monday night to move to 4-1-0 in their preseason, with three of the wins coming in OT.
10 Panarin - 93 Zibanejad - 89 Buchnevich
74 Kravtsov - 21 Howden - 45 Kakko
48 Lemieux - 16 Strome - 17 Fast
38 Haley - 50 Andersson - 65 O'Regan
18 Staal - 23 Fox
76 Skjei - 8 Trouba
42 Smith - 70 Morrow