Game Sixty-Nine, the Chicago Blackhawks at the New York Rangers
Season Series: 1-0-0, Rangers
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Last night the Blackhawks bested the Islanders 4-1 in Chicago and now they will come into New York to see if they can do the same to the Rangers. It was just ten days ago when the Blueshirts last played the Blackhawks and beat them 1-0 thanks to an overtime goal from Derick Brassard. Since that game, the Rangers have been rolling. Coming into tonight's game, the Rangers are in a four-way tie for the most points in the league but they have games in hand over the other teams, including the Montreal Canadiens. The news has also come out that the Rangers should expect Lundqvist to return sometime after tonight's game, which is going to be great news for the locker room and the already high morale of the club.
Tonight will be the first game of the season that the Rangers will skate without Martin St. Louis among their forwards. St. Louis was injured in the club's victory over the Florida Panthers with a lower body injury and will be out of the picture for what could be half of a month. Reports have suggested that Kevin Hayes will be the skater that moves up in the lineup to take Marty's spot on the second line. Hayes has already shown that he has the goods to make an impact playing with top six players, it will be interesting to see how he clicks with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan as his linemates.
Chicago comes into the Garden with a three game winning streak. They are 7-2-1 in their last ten games. Their only loss in the month of March came at the hands of the team they are skating against tonight. Not much has changed with the Blackhawks or their play since the last time we saw them. They remain the best team in the league at getting rubber on net and are an elite penalty killing team. Patrick Kane is still out of the lineup for the Blackhawks, and will be for the rest of the regular season, and Joakim Nordstrom is eligible to return to Chicago's lineup tonight after serving a suspension for his hit on Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes.
The New York Rangers' March Schedule
3/2, Predators at Rangers, 7:00(win.) 3/4, Rangers at Red Wings, 8:00(overtime loss.) 3/8, Rangers at Blackhawks, 7:30(win.) 3/10, Rangers at Islanders, 7:00(win!!!) 3/11 Rangers at Capitals, 8:00(win) 3/14, Rangers at Sabres, 7:00(win) 3/15, Panthers at Rangers, 5:00(win)
3/18, Blackhawks at Rangers, 8:00
3/21, Rangers at Hurricanes, 7:00
3/22, Ducks at Rangers, 7:30
3/24, Kings at Rangers, 7:00
3/26, Rangers at Senators, 7:00
3/28, Rangers at Bruins, 1:00
3/29, Capitals at Rangers, 3:00
3/31, Rangers at Jets, 8:00
Mike's Player to Watch: James Sheppard
With Martin St. Louis on the shelf for as long as two weeks with a lower body injury, James Sheppard will be a mainstay in the Blueshirts' lineup for the first time since being acquired on deadline day for a fourth round pick. Sheppard looked outstanding against the Panthers on the 15th and certainly earned his first goal as a Ranger. According the lines we heard about in practice yesterday, we should see Shep centering the third line with Hagelin and Miller on his wings tonight. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact he makes with some more ice time and some more skilled players to work with. Go get 'em Shep.
Let's go Rangers. Drop the puck.