BY: DAVID KOLB
MINNESOTA WILD (20-8-4) @ NEW YORK RANGERS (23-11-1)
CLOSING OUT BACK-TO-BACKS
Tonight the Rangers faceoff against the Minnesota Wild at Madison Square Garden, looking to rebound from Tuesday’s 7-2 loss vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Wild come to New York hoping to extend their season-high, nine-game winning streak to 10, following Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
After serving as the backup Tuesday in Pittsburgh, Henrik Lundqvist will get the start tonight between the pipes for the Blueshirts. He’s 3-0 in his last three starts, allowing only three goals during that stretch. “The King” is 6-4-0 against the Wild all-time and on home-ice Lundqvist is 4-1 with a 2.22 goals against average against them.
Former Ranger Eric Staal’s tremendous bounce-back season with the Wild continued Thursday in Montreal, as Staal scored a goal and finished the night a plus-2. Eric begins the night with 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points in 32 games, including 10 points in 10 games in December.
Michael Grabner scored his team-leading 14th goal of the season 1:52 into the third period Tuesday against the Penguins. The Rangers hope the goal will reignite Grabner, who had not lit-the-lamp since Dec. 3 vs. the Carolina Hurricanes. Grabner continues to lead the Rangers in plus/minus, having earned a plus-18 rating in 34 games on Broadway.
KUEMPER TO GO FOR MINNY
Devan Dubnyk got the start Thursday night vs. the Canadiens, so Darcy Kuemper is slated to backstop the Wild tonight at The Garden in the second game of Minnesota’s back-to-back set. Kuemper last started on Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes, gaining a 4-1 win, moving his record to 3-2-1 with a 2.97 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.