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Rangers Visit Jackets in Metro Division Matchup

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Rangers (1-3-0, 2 pts) at Blue Jackets (2-1-0, 4 pts)
7 pm, MSG Network; ESPN 98.7 FM

The Game

The Rangers will face a Metropolitan Division foe for the first time this season Friday when they visit the Blue Jackets in Columbus.

The Blueshirts are coming off a 3-1 loss Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues. Mika Zibanejad scored his fifth goal of the season on the power play, but the team's offensive struggles at even strength continued, leading to line shuffling by Alain Vigneault Thursday at practice.

While the Zibanejad unit remained intact, Vigneault shuffled his bottom three lines and all three defensive pairs, while slotting Brendan Smith back into the lineup after serving as a healthy scratch the last two games.

Henrik Lundqvist will get the start against the Blue Jackets after making 20 saves against St. Louis on Tuesday. Lundqvist allowed two first period goals but shut the door the rest of the contest. He's 10-5-1 with a 2.87 GAA in 17 career games against the Blue Jackets.

The Blue Jackets enter Friday's contest coming off a 2-1 overtime victory against the Hurricanes in Carolina on Tuesday night behind a pair of goals by Long Island-native Sonny Milano, including the game-winner.

The reigning Vezina Trophy-winner, Sergei Bobrovsky is 2-0 this season with a 0.48 GAA and a .985 SV% with one shutout.

Columbus took the season series, 3-2, in 2016-17. Michael Grabner led all skaters with five goals and six points in the five-game series, including a hat trick.

Players to Watch

Pavel Buchnevich has done just about everything but score this season for the Rangers, and has been a key component to the team's hot start on the power play, with two of his three assists coming on the man advantage. Buchnevich said Thursday he's hoping this season goes like last, when it took him about a month to score before finding the back of the net in four straight games.

Artemi Panarin arrived in Columbus in one of the biggest moves of the offseason, when he was dealt by the Blackhawks in exchange for Brandon Saad. The 25-year-old is picking up where he left off in the Windy City with three assists in three games, though he has just two shots on goal thus far after posting 211 a year ago.

Say What?

"We have two big games coming up and the focus is obviously on tomorrow night. It's going to be a very tough test to go into a building that can be pretty rowdy and a team that's obviously shown that they've gotten better this year. We need to be ready and have our best game." - Kevin Shattenkirk on facing the Blue Jackets

"I feel like my mindset going into every game has been a lot different than last year. Just trying to get that one game at a time mentality. Score or not score, or whatever, just try and play my game and it seems to be working right now." - Mika Zibanejad on his confidence 

Project Lineup

Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich
Rick Nash - Kevin Hayes - Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey - David Desharnais - J.T. Miller
Michael Grabner - Paul Carey - Adam Cracknell

Nick Holden - Ryan McDonagh
Marc Staal - Kevin Shattenkirk
Brady Skjei - Brendan Smith

Henrik Lundqvist

Inside the Numbers

The Kreider- Zibanejad- Buchnevich line has registered 11 points (five goals, six assists) thus far this season, and at least one of the three players has notched a point on seven of the team's 10 goals in 2017-18.

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