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Tonight Rick Nash is returning to the lineup after missing Tuesday's game against the Calgary Flames with neck spasms. None of us would have believed this at the beginning of the season after how snake-bitten Nash was in the 2014 Playoffs, but the big forward has been the team's most valuable player this season. He is not only scoring goals from all over the ice and making things happen, he is making the players around him play better and find their games and has been an inspiration when it comes to his penalty killing, hustle, and work ethic. Having him back in the lineup is absolutely fantastic news for the Rangers.
Now go do more of this Rick, pretty please.
The other update in regards to Rangers' injuries is that Jesper Fast, who has been out of the lineup with a sprained knee, is apparently one or two practices away from returning to the Rangers' lineup. When he returns will the team finally do the right thing and put Tanner Glass in a suit? Or will they do the maddening thing and send Oscar Lindberg back to Hartford? Wait, they already did that, didn't they? Sigh. There are no major updates on Henrik Lundqvist's return, although it looks like he will be re-evaluated next week and we will get a better of idea of when the King returns to his crease.
The Rangers have been finding a lot of ways to win games recently which would be a lot more comforting and impressive if not for the fact they have also been finding ways to allow teams to get back into games late and make some games against poor competition far less interesting than they needed to be. With the trade deadline nearing there is a lot of talk about which players the Rangers' management are targeting. Several of the names that had been tied to New York for as long as several months have been already been moved in the past few days, and at some alarmingly high prices. Missed any trades that went down? Make sure to check them out here:
Now, on to tonight's game. The
Phoenix Arizona Coyotes are one of the worst teams in hockey. The Coyotes are 1-8-1 in their last ten games and have a record of 20-34-7 on the season, which is good for the third worst record in the National Hockey League ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres and the Edmonton Oilers. The last time the Rangers and the Coyotes met (just over two weeks ago), the Rangers came away with two points in a resounding 5-2 victory which helped contribute to the Coyotes' second worst goal differential in the league, -72 in 64 games. Yikes.
- Keith Yandle, 4 goals, 36 assists
- Antoine Vermette, 12 goals, 22 assists
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 17 goals, 13 assists
The three players above are all one of the three point leaders on the Coyotes and they are also all officially on Arizona's trading block. The Coyotes seem committed to a rebuild or, at the very least, a very dramatic change of personnel and culture. The asking price for the above named players, including Antoine Vermette who has been tied to the Rangers for quite some time now, is apparently so steep that the Rangers are rumored to be out of contention until the asking price(s) come way down. There isn't a player on the Coyotes who feels confident that he will be in Arizona after deadline day and that means they are all hungry and desperate to prove their worth and value to stay in the desert or to finally move on. Speaking of people moving on, apparently half of the crowd at MSG tonight are scouts.
Now, to the Rangers. Rookie forward Kevin Hayes has been exceptional as of late, although it seems that his recent play has convinced Alain Vigneault that he likes Hayes far more at wing than he does at center. Which would suggest that the Rangers will be in the market for a third line center on or before deadline day.
AV praises Hayes versatility. Says rookie probably prefers playing center over RW/LW but Rangers are going to do "what's best for the team."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) February 26, 2015
Hayes scored the lone goal on Tuesday night against the Flames filling in at wing to replace Rick Nash on the Brassard line. I don't know how this kid landed in our laps this offseason, but I can't wait to see what he turns into. It will also be interesting to see what is going on in regards to which defensemen take the ice for the Rangers. As per Gross, Marc Staal could be battling an illness and it appears unclear if John Moore or Matt Hunwick will be in... or if they will both be in tonight. There is nothing concrete on this as of yet, although it does have some of twitter wondering if the Rangers are about to make a trade or are making chicken noodle soup to help battle the flu bug that is in the locker room.
As awful as the Coyotes have been this season, the Rangers can't afford to take the foot off the gas tonight at the Garden. These are two points that the Rangers just have to have and they know they can take them if they play their game and smother the Coyotes the way they did on February 12th. With a win tonight the Rangers would draw even with the Islanders for the top spot in the division with two games in hand. That sounds pretty darn good to me.
Let's go Rangers.