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Rangers Return from Break to Face Leafs at The Garden

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

The Rangers return to action after their five-day break to host the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

New York enters the contest riding a two-game winning streak, most recently with Saturday's dramatic win over the Columbus Blue Jackets led by Michael Grabner's hat trick that was capped with a goal with 16.5 seconds remaining in the third period.

The Rangers received good news Thursday when both Rick Nash and Pavel Buchnevich were ruled ready to play by head coach Alain Vigneault. Nash has missed the last eight games with a groin injury, while Buchnevich has missed the last two months with a back problem.

While that was the good news, there was some bad, as forward Jesper Fast could miss the game as he battles the flu. Defenseman Nick Holden did not practice for a personal reason, but Vigneault was optimistic he'd be available for Friday.

Marc Staal did not practice and is undergoing concussion protocol.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to get the start for the Blueshirts after backstopping them to back-to-back wins prior to the break. He is 18-9-1 with a 2.55 GAA and a .912 SV% with one shutout this season, and 7-2 in his last nine decisions.

Friday marks the first meeting of the season between these Original Six squads, and the only one at The Garden.

Toronto - also coming off their bye week - enters the game as one of the bigger surprises through the first half of the season. After finishing last in the NHL last season, Toronto finds itself in the playoff hunt through 39 games this season. They're currently four points behind Philadelphia for the second Wild Card spot, and just two points behind Ottawa for third in the Atlantic Division.
 
First-year star Auston Matthews is leading the way offensively for Toronto this season, with his 21 goals being tied for the most by any rookie and his 35 points being second behind Winnipeg's Patrik Laine.

In fact, Toronto's youth movement has been at the center of its strong season with freshman Mitch Marner posting 32 points in 39 games and sophomore William Nylander registering 26 points through 38 contests.

Goaltending has be a strength for the Maple Leafs thus far with netminder Frederik Andersen going 17-9-7 with a 2.69 GAA and a .918 SV% with one shutout in 33 starts.

Rangers (28-13-1, 57 pts) vs Maple Leafs (18-13-8, 44 pts)

7 pm at Madison Square Garden

Live coverage on MSG Network

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