By: David Kolb
FLORIDA PANTHERS (9-8-1) @ NEW YORK RANGERS (13-5-0)
BACK ON HOME ICE
The Rangers will attempt to get back on track tonight at the World’s Most Famous Arena after a 4-2 setback against the Blue Jackets on Friday. The Blueshirts enter the contest with two distinct advantages: home ice and the fact that the Panthers will be weary after playing last night. Florida won, 4-1, against Ottawa Saturday.
HANK VS. ?
Henrik Lundqvist is expected to be in goal for the Blueshirts tonight. He has sensational career numbers against the Panthers: a 22-10-1 record, with a 1.91 goals against average, a .934 save percentage and five shutouts. The goaltending decision will be tougher for Panthers coach Gerard Gallant. No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo got the victory against the Senators last night and backup James Reimer was torched for six goals Thursday against the Maple Leafs.
The Rangers have protected Garden ice well this season, posting an 8-2-0 record, while outscoring opponents 45-24, at home. The Rangers begin the night leading the NHL in goals for (45) and goals per game (4.50) at home in 2016-17.
GRABBING AN TERRIFIC START
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Michael Grabner is the first Ranger who has scored 11 or more even-strength goals in the club’s first 18 games of one season since Rod Gilbert did it in the 1971-72 season. The surprising Grabner begins the night leading the NHL in even-strength goals with 11 and plus/minus with a plus-17 rating.
Mika Zibanejad scored his fourth goal of the season Friday and will skate in his 300th career NHL game tonight. He comes into game hot, recording a point in four of the last five games (two goals, three assists), giving him 14 points in his first 18 games as a Ranger.