The Rangers kick off their Mountain time zone road trip tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, who own a record of 4-8-1, good enough for last place in the Central Division. The Avalanche have struggled so far this season in all three areas on the ice; they have a league-worst team corsi of -173, sit at 25th for Goals Against/game at 3.08, and their starting goaltenter, Semyon Varlamov, has a 3.26 GAA and .890 SV%.
Colorado is coming off a 4-2 loss to Arizona last night, and will be looking for just their third win at home this season. Their leading point getter (with 14), Nathan MacKinnon, appeared to injure his hand in the late stages of last night's game, but Head Coach Patrick Roy has said he expects MacKinnon to play. Here is Colorado's expected lineup:
Alex Tanguay - Nathan MacKinnon - Jarome Iginla (A)
Gabriel Landeskog (C) - Carl Soderberg - Matt Duchene
Dennis Everberg - Ben Street - Jack Skille
Cody McLeod (A) - Mikhail Grigorenko - Blake Comeau
Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson
Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie
Brad Stuart - Brandon Gormley
The big news of the day for the Rangers is Rick Nash has been ruled out of tonight's game by Alain Vigneault. Nash, who tweaked his back in practice yesterday, has been listed as day-to-day. This isn't the first time he has had back problems in his career; a couple years ago Nash hurt his back and missed about three days. Regardless, it looks like this will be a simple case of let him rest and recover, and he should be good to go soon. And looking at the upcoming schedule for the Rangers, there probably isn't a huge rush to get him back in the lineup if he's not 100%. Anyway, here is the projected Rangers lineup, subject to change:
Emerson Etem - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan (A) - J.T. Miller
Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - Viktor Stalberg
Jesper Fast - Jarret Stoll - Dominic Moore
Ryan McDonagh (C) - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal (A) - Kevin Klein
Keith Yandle - Dylan McIlrath
Emerson Etem will most likely be taking Nash's place on the top line, and it will be very interesting to see how he does with top-6 minutes. Hopefully he can play well enough to earn a permanent spot in the lineup, instead of just being an injury bandaid. Also to note, J.T. Miller will be playing on the second line, after bouncing around the third and fourth the past few weeks. Finally, Dylan McIlrath will be in for Dan Boyle for the second game in a row. Vigneault said he talked to Boyle about limiting his playing time due to his age, so it's likely we won't see Boyle for two games in a back-to-back situation any time soon.
Tonight, the Rangers will have to play a very attack-heavy style of hockey. Colorado is a poor possession team, an average scoring team, and a bad defending team. I expect the Rangers to dominate in possession time, offensive zone pressure time, and shots on net. Taking a lead into the first intermission would be crucial in letting the air out of their tires.
Let's go Rangers.