The Rangers wrap up their regular season series with Tampa Bay tonight at The Garden.
A week ago, these teams met in an electrifying match in Tampa and the Blueshirts outlasted the Lightning, 1-0, when Mika Zibanejad scored in overtime. Both goaltenders were spectacular with Antti Raanta making 38 saves to get his third shutout of the season. The Rangers prevailed, 6-1, in the first meeting of the year between the two teams in late October at MSG.
The Rangers beat the Red Wings last night, 4-1, at Detroit in about as sound a game as they have played over the past couple of weeks. Captain Ryan McDonagh was the catalyst with two goals and was a dominant factor in all three zones. The team protected and attacked in all areas of the ice, as a five-man unit. A collective game is key for the Blueshirts to have success. With the return of both Rick Nash and Micheal Grabner to the lineup, the forwards were slotted nicely and played a solid positional game. This was a benchmark victory.
Tampa Bay comes in on a 7-2-1 streak, despite a lineup that is dramatically different than a year ago due to trades and injuries. Gone at the trade deadline were veterans Brian Boyle, Valtteri Filppula and Ben Bishop. Out tonight due to injury are Ryan Callahan, Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette. They are playing a little simpler game, but speed is still a key component.
3 KEYS TO RANGERS-LIGHTNING
1. Centers of Attention
Tampa is severely compromised in the middle due to the aforementioned trades and injuries. Derek Stepan ended a 23-game goalless slide last night, while Kevin Hayes also scored. Mika Zibanejad is a game removed from scoring two himself. Advantage: Rangers.
2. Role 18
On the second game of back-to-back situations, it’s important to have the depth of your lineup be the contributing factor. Share the ice-time wealth by playing a sound disciplined game, stay out of the penalty box and attack with a full compliment of players.
The two most dangerous Lightning players are Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman. Kucherov is a lethal offensive threat, while Hedman is third in the league in scoring by defensemen. Paying attention to these two will help the cause.
Catch all the Rangers-Lightning action tonight on MSG (TV) and ESPN 98.7 FM (Radio). Pregame at 6:30, puck drop a little after 7.
Check it out!