Tonight marks the beginning of quick two game road trip through the Sunshine State, and it’ll start on the west side of Florida. The Rangers will head into Amalie Arena to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in a matchup of under performing squads in the early part of the 2019-20 season.
After winning 62 games and running away with the Presidents’ Trophy last year, the Lightning appeared primed to remain among the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference. However, some offseason roster juggling that resulted in the exits of former Blueshirts J.T. Miller, Dan Girardi, and Ryan Callahan has seemingly turned the Bolts into a pedestrian team. Sitting in the middle of the league in shot and chance share metrics, while sporting an equally pedestrian 8-5-2 record, Jon Cooper’s squad is a shell of the one that took the league by storm last regular season en route to winning zero (0) playoff games.
The Rangers have posted an almost equally mediocre 8-6-2 record, but excellent goaltending has buoyed them through the first five weeks of the season. Far and away the worst defensive team in the league thus far, David Quinn’s group will need to limit scoring chances against while the likes of Nikta Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Kevin Shattenkirk patrol the ice for Tampa. Alexandar Georgiev will get the start in net for New York.
Player to Watch: Libor Hajek
Rumored to be a critical piece of the blockbuster deal between these teams at the 2018 trade deadline, Hajek’s first full season as an NHLer has been brutal. Primarily paired with Jacob Trouba on the team’s top pair, Hajek has been getting overwhelmed by tough competition on a near nightly basis, with calls for his return to AHL Hartford starting to grow. If there was ever time for Hajek to have a strong game, it would be tonight, so keep an eye on him.
Enjoy the game!