Luck of the Irish for Blueshirts at Home?

Greetings on a fine St. Patrick’s Day! The Blueshirts hope that the luck of the Irish dons upon them as they look to change the end result at The Garden when they face the Panthers this evening.

This is the third and final meeting of the regular season between the Rangers and Florida with each team winning in the opposition’s building.

The Blueshirts are winless in their last five at home. Jesper Fast returns from injury to lead a full compliment of forwards. Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein remain sidelined, although all three are getting closer to playing health.

Speaking of injury-riddled, in their last game, the Rangers were picked apart by a feisty and well-coached Tampa Bay club that had to reach deep into its resources to field an NHL roster. It was a disappointing 3-2 loss, coming on the heels of a well-played 4-1 win in Detroit.

The Florida Panthers come to town with just one win in their last seven games. Last night they were beaten 2-1 in a physical, hard-fought game in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. An offseason makeover that included a front-office reshuffling, a major redo on the blueline, and an in-season firing of head coach Gerard Gallant has the Panthers chasing a final playoff spot in the East. A bit of a darling story a year ago, it has been a disappointing season for the Panthers.

Prior to the Rangers' matchup against the Panthers, head coach Alain Vigneault says that after a few hard-fought games, his team is prepared to take on a desperate Florida squad.

3 KEYS TO RANGERS-PANTHERS

1. Defend Down Low

Florida forwards attack with a nice compliment of size and skill. Cycling and getting that size and skill to the net drives the Panthers offense. The Rangers must be willing to engage one-on-one and establish solid positioning in the defensive zone.

2. PK

The Ranger penalty kill has given up five goals over the last four games. The record in those games is 2-2-0 with both losses coming in games where one goal has been the difference. One less goal against may have garnered at least a point. Fast’s return will deepen the penalty kill unit.

3. Energy

Back-to-back nights for the Panthers. Three days off for the home team. Creating energy in a building that lots of times has been on the quiet side might be the difference in getting The Garden a little more intimidating for an opponent to play in.

COVERAGE

Rangers-Panthers tonight on MSG Network (TV) and ESPN 98.7 FM (Radio). Pregame at 6:30 PM, puck drop a little after 7.

Check it out!