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Spotlight Game: Rangers vs. Sharks - The End of An Era?

Rangers and Sharks at The Garden.

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San Jose Sharks v New York Rangers

The New York Rangers will face off vs. the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, and it will be the Blueshirts’ final home game before the NHL trade deadline. It should be an evening with a number of interesting storylines surrounding the future, and there’s a few good reasons to get off your coach and see the game in person. If you are interested in doing so, you can use the link below.

1) Chris Kreider’s Uncertain Rangers’ Future

Kreider is the top prize on the trade market, and there’s a good chance this game could be his last home game as a Blueshirt, although there is a chance he’s put into bubble wrap ahead of the team’s road game vs. Carolina. Throughout his career Kreider’s been productive at home, tallying 86 goals and 86 assists for 172 points in 267 games. That’s 28 more points than he’s tallied in rinks not named MSG.

He’s been a fan favorite since making his debut in the 2011-12 playoffs vs. the Ottawa Senators, and being in attendance for what could be his final game as a Ranger is something that’s hard to pass up.

Kreider’s had many memorable moments with this team, and if this is in fact it, I will always remember his game-tying goal vs. the Washington Capitals which gave the team new life, and ultimately allowed them to comeback in the series to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

2) Could this be Alexandar Georgiev’s last time in Rangers uniform... vs. the Sharks?

Georgiev’s situation isn’t as dire or immediate as Kreider’s, although it is worth pointing out that the Sharks are a team that could be interested in his services this offseason. Martin Jones has been on a decline, and it is hard to see him as their starter next season. The only option might be via buyout, and it would be a bitter, but necessary pill to swallow. With a veteran roster full of long term contracts, things will need to improve sooner rather than later, because there’s no simple way to do a scorched earth rebuild. Georgiev’s age, ability, and contract status makes him the perfect goalie for the Sharks, and it is a situation worth keeping an eye on once the offseason begins.

3) Jesper Fast’s Final Game as a Blueshirt?

Things have remained relatively quiet surrounding Fast, and during NBCSN’s pregame show on Wednesday, Bob McKenzie mentioned the plucky forward as someone who is likely on the move.

During Fast’s career he’s been a heart and soul player who’s been very solid defensively, and in the postseason had a knack for coming up big. In 39 career games he tallied six goals and eight assists, with one of his most recent big moments coming during a 2016-17 series vs. the Montreal Canadiens.

In addition to this being the last time a few Rangers could be playing for the home team at Madison Square Garden, this could also be the last time two potential future Hall of Famers play in the World’s Most Famous Arena.

San Jose Sharks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are both 40 and are pending unrestricted free agents. Saturday’s game will be the 1,626th of Thornton’s career and the 1,713th of Marleau’s career. Whether or not one or both of them will be back for another season in 2020-21 is unclear. What we do know is that Thornton and Marleau have been counted among the best players in the league during the 1990s, 2000s, and the 2010s.

In 41 career games against the Rangers, Thornton has scored 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) and has earned 33 PIM. But for many Rangers fans, he is perhaps best remembered for calling the Blueshirts “soft” back in 2011 - which sparked some trademark fireworks from John Tortorella - and for his hilarious comments in defense of Tomas Hertl’s four-goal game against the Rangers on Oct. 8, 2013, captured by the late great Jason Botchford.

Over the last twenty years or so, Marleau has had far less luck putting up points against the Blueshirts than Jumbo Joe. In 31 games, he has scored 10 goals and picked up eight assists at the Rangers’ expense. Back in 2015, the Rangers were on the short list of teams that Marleau would accept being traded to. However, the man with some of the most expressive eyebrows in the game stayed in San Jose until he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on a three-year, $18.75 million deal on July 2, 2017.

Marleau returned to the Sharks this season on a one-year deal after the Maple Leafs exercised some salary cap gymnastics with the help of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Still Sharks, But no Bite

While Thornton and Marleau will be on the ice, there are quite a few Sharks who will not be. Both Erik Karlsson and Tomas Hertl have been shut down for the season and Logan Couture is still working his way back from a significant ankle injury.

Evander Kane, who carries the second-highest AAV among Sharks’ forwards ($7 million), will be eligible to play in Saturday’s game after serving a three-game suspension for elbowing former Rangers defenseman Neal Pionk.

The Sharks also recently trade away six-year veteran defender Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals, and remain active in the trade market ahead of the deadline. This game will also be a homecoming of sorts for Kevin Lebanc, a forward with 31 points in 59 games who is a Staten Island native.

In Case You’re Interested

  • Lifetime the Rangers are 28-11-3 vs. San Jose, they are 13-5-1 at home, and 15-6-2 in San Jose
  • Last decade the Rangers went 9-6-0 vs. San Jose, including a record of 5-3-0 at Madison Square Garden
  • This is the second time the two teams have met this season, with the Rangers having defeated San Jose 6-3 on December 12, 2019. Artemiy Panarin recorded his first hat trick as a Ranger during this game