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Preview: Rangers Host Senators on Special Night at The Garden

Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award ceremony at 7:15 p.m.

by Michael Obernauer

SENATORS at RANGERS, 7:30 p.m.
MSG+, 970 AM

Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award ceremony at 7:15 p.m.

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The Rangers have two home games remaining on their schedule, and Wednesday's will fall on one of the special nights on each season's calendar: the presentation of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, preceding the Rangers' game against the Ottawa Senators.

The award is decided by the fans' vote and given in the name of New York Police Department Det. Steven McDonald, a dedicated Ranger fan, who was shot in the line of duty on July 12, 1986, and left paralyzed. Detective McDonald passed away on Jan. 10, 2017.

This is the 31st year in which the Rangers will present the award, since Jan Erixon was its first recipient in 1987-88. Henrik Lundqvist is a two-time winner, including last season.

(For more on the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, please click here)

When the game begins, the Rangers will be without Filip Chytil against the Senators, after Chytil was shaken by a shoulder-on-shoulder check in the closing minutes of Monday's game in New Jersey. David Quinn said the 19-year-old is considered day-to-day and would not rule out Chytil playing in the Rangers' games Friday against Columbus and Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Pavel Buchnevich, who was held out of Monday's game after an accidental open-ice collision in Sunday's third period, will be a gametime decision. Henrik Lundqvist will take his second straight start after making 37 saves in Newark on Monday night.

Chytil's fellow rookie, Brett Howden, carries a four-game points streak (goal, four assists) into Wednesday night's game, the longest streak of his rookie season. Howden's sixth goal of the year propelled the Ranger rally that tied the score on Monday night, and it has been obvious to his teammates and his head coach that Howden is playing with an increased level of confidence for at least a week now.

"I think I've got some more jump in my game right now. I think that jump comes along with confidence," Howden said at the Rangers' morning skate on Wednesday. "Obviously you've got to find a way during the year to be effective in a game when you might not have that jump. But it's a learning experience for me. I've learned a lot this year and I'm just trying to finish on strong note."

Howden's goal Monday came with less than two minutes to play in the opening period. Neal Pionk had broken up a Devils rush and turned it the other way for a 3-on-1; Howden took a pass from Connor Brickley entering the zone and attacked the net, snapping a shot under the arm of Devils goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood.

It was in some ways reminiscent of the goal scored near the end of Sunday's first period by Ryan Strome, which was Strome's fifth in six games - two players with growing confidence and point totals who had no hesitation taking the ice that was given to them and shooting through the goaltender.

"You could just see when they entered the zone there was this feeling, that they want the puck, they want to be in that situation," Quinn said of Howden and Strome. "It's just a little thing you can tell from somebody's body language and how they enter the zone - they enter with authority. If you watch that clip of Howden, he's demanding the puck coming up ice. I think when you play with confidence you want the puck more. … When you're feeling good and you're on a little bit of a roll, you want it even more."

"I think if I would have had that play maybe in the middle of the season, I would have tried passing that," Howden said. "The state of mind I was in, I was trying to hand the puck off to guys, I feel like. I feel like lately I've been wanting the puck a lot more, and wanting to have it on my stick, and be a player that's making the plays. As soon as I saw that open ice, I wanted it. "I think that's my mentality right now in each game is trying to shoot more. I think I kind of struggled with that during the year, passing a lot more. I just want to try to focus on getting pucks to the net and I think we create more chances off of that."

When it comes to credit, though, Howden is still looking to pass: "Neal made the play," he said. "He stopped the rush. For him to get it to Bricks and Bricks to get it to me, they set me up perfect for that."

At 28-45-6 (62 points), the Senators are guaranteed to finish last in the NHL; they must win out in their final three games to surpass last season's total of 67 points.

After dealing away Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel around the trade deadline, a pair of youngsters stand atop the Senators' scoring lists: Brady Tkachuk, the No. 4 pick of the 2018 draft who played for Quinn at Boston University last season, leads the team with 21 goals as a 19-year-old, while second-year defenseman Thomas Chabot, sets the pace in assists (40) and points (53).

Journeyman Anders Nilsson will oppose Lundqvist in the Senators' nets, looking for his 50th NHL win, the first 49 coming with six different teams. Nilsson has allowed nine goals in back-to-back losses.

PROJECTED LINEUP

20 Kreider - 93 Zibanejad - 89 Buchnevich*
90 Namestnikov - 21 Howden - 16 Strome
26 Vesey - 24 Nieves - 48 Lemieux
42 Smith - 50 Andersson - 95 Lettieri
*gametime decision

76 Skjei - 22 Shattenkirk
18 Staal - 77 DeAngelo
58 Gilmour - 44 Pionk

30 Lundqvist
40 Georgiev

NUMBERS GAME

Tony DeAngelo's assist on Monday made him the sixth Rangers defenseman 23 years old or younger to record a 30-point season in the past 30 years (Leetch, Zubov, Del Zotto, McDonagh, Skjei).

The Rangers have allowed one power-play goal in their last 10 games against the Senators, killing 22 of 23 power plays (95.7%).

Thomas Chabot is Ottawa's current scoring leader with 53 points. The Sens are one of two teams in the NHL whose leading scorer is a defenseman, along with San Jose (Brent Burns, 79 points).

The Senators are 5-4 in their last nine games. A win on Wednesday night would give them their best 10-game stretch of the season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Mika Zibanejad has played five games against the team that drafted him sixth overall in 2011, and has scored in four of them.

Brady Tkachuk has seven points (five goals) in his last seven games. He has two assists in two games against the Rangers this season.

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