Raanta Starts as Rangers Head to LA

Greetings from the Left Coast where tonight the Rangers will be at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles to play against the Kings.

The game is the second of two on the season between the teams with the Rangers winning in January 3-2 at The Garden. Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding facing 38 shots and Mats Zuccarello scored the game-winner.

Lundqvist, coming off an injury, practiced yesterday and is fit to go, but won’t start tonight. Antti Raanta will make his eighth consecutive appearance in goal. Expect Lundqvist to play tomorrow night in Anaheim.

The Kings, who are three seasons removed from their Stanley Cup win over the Rangers, are on the outside looking in on the playoff picture. While there are 12 players still on the roster from that Cup run, this is a franchise that has not aged well. Most think that the Kings would be formidable in the playoffs, but their lack of scoring makes the 82-game regular season a night-in, night-out grind.

The Rangers are coming off a tough one-goal loss at home to the Islanders. A sound two-period game fell victim once again to the lack of success on the penalty kill. The Islanders scored twice on the power play in the third to win it, 3-2. The Blueshirts spent considerable time at practice yesterday working on the penalty kill and the return of Dan Girardi will help a group that needs to find a way to defend on the same page when shorthanded.

3 KEYS TO RANGERS-KINGS

1. Defending Physically

The Kings might epitomize the last of a dying breed. Known as a heavy team, they play a relentless, disciplined, big body physical game, generating their chances through quantity. It’s essential that the Rangers be willing to engage in the numerous one-on-one battles that will be the essence of the game.

2. Raanta

Antti Raanta will likely be called upon in numerous situations to make an important save through traffic. Utilizing his puck handling ability will also help minimize the time spent in the defensive zone.

3. Chip and Chase

After all is said and done, playing in the Kings end is the best way to defend. Throw into the mix a less than mobile LA blueline and the simple strategy of chipping and chasing the puck into the offensive zone should create offensive opportunities.

COVERAGE

Rangers-Kings tonight on MSG+, while Don LeGreca and I will have the call on 1050 AM. Pregame at 10, puck drop a little after 10:30.

Check it out!