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Rangers Look for Fourth Straight Win Tonight Against Blue Jackets

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Rangers (6-7-2, 14 pts) vs. Blue Jackets (9-4-1, 19 pts)
7 pm, Madison Square Garden
MSG Network, ESPN 98.7 FM

The Game

The Rangers bring their season-high, three-game winning streak back home to face their Metropolitan Division foe, the Columbus Blue Jackets, at Madison Square Garden.

New York is coming off a successful two-game road trip through Florida that saw the Blueshirts edge the Lightning and Panthers in overtime. Kevin Shattenkirk's two goals, including the game-winner, on Saturday night against the Panthers allowed New York to head north on a high-note.

After missing Saturday's game with an illness, center Boo Nieves is expected to return to the lineup on Monday night, replacing Paul Carey on a line with Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast. The rest of the lineup was untouched Sunday at practice, though New York's starting goaltender is unknown.

Henrik Lundqvist has been in goal for all three games during this current win streak, and he's made at least 30 saves in four of his last eight appearances.

That isn't expected to change tonight against the Blue Jackets, who are third in the NHL in shots per game with 36.5 through 14 games this season.

Columbus comes into The Garden with wins in five of its last seven games. Like the Rangers, the Blue Jackets faced Florida and Tampa Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Unlike the Rangers, though, Columbus split the road trip with a win against the Panthers and an overtime loss Saturday against the Lightning.

Defenseman Seth Jones and forward Artemi Panarin are tied for the team-lead with 11 points. Second-year blueliner Zach Werenski has nine points, while rookie Sonny Milano has eight.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has picked up where his Vezina-winning season ended last year, with eight wins through 11 games, including a 2.23 GAA and a .927 SV%.

Players to Watch

Grabner has found his scoring touch from last season, a campaign that saw the speedy winger reach 27 goals. No. 40 has four goals in his last five games and has found chemistry on the team's fourth line alongside Nieves and Fast. Grabner is still one of the better defensive players on the Rangers and is averaging 2:10 of short-handed ice time per game, which is second on the squad behind Kevin Hayes. 

As stated, Bobrovsky is off to another Vezina-worthy start to the 2017-18 season. The 29-year-old has just two regulation losses this season - with coming in back-to-back games in October - and has wins in four of his last five starts dating back to Oct. 25. Bobrovsky is 6-9-2 lifetime against the Rangers.

Say What?

"We saw them last year. A team that has a lot of depth up front and some great defensemen too and a big time goaltender. A lot of areas we're going to be tested. Another team that plays really well in structure. I think the team that makes less mistakes here and special teams being a big difference-maker for sure [tonight], so hopefully we can continue in that aspect." - Ryan McDonagh on facing Columbus.

Rangers Projected Lineup

Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich
Rick Nash - Kevin Hayes - Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey - David Desharnais - J.T. Miller
Michael Grabner - Boo Nieves - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Nick Holden
Brady Skjei - Kevin Shattenkirk
Marc Staal - Steven Kampfer

Inside the Numbers

The Rangers have won nine of their last 13 games against the Blue Jackets, dating back to Jan. 16, 2015 (9-4-0 record over the span).

Lundqvist has posted a 7-3-0 record in his last 11 appearances against Columbus (dating back to Mar. 21, 2014), and he has allowed two goals or fewer in six of the 11 contests.

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