Rangers Look To Bottle Up Lightning

The Rangers visit Tampa Bay this evening to take on the Lightning in the first of two consecutive games in the Sunshine State.

They will aim to dovetail a strong third period where they scored four times to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights 6-4 Monday. The victory runs their record to 4-7-2 on the season. A win this evening would mark the first back-to-back wins for the Rangers this season.

The Lightning and St. Louis sport an identical 10-2-1 record after 13 games, good enough for best overall in the NHL. This is a very skilled, deep and most importantly healthy opponent, something they were not a year ago, particularly on the health front.

Steven Stamkos, who leads the league in points with 24, missed most of last season with a knee injury. His line mate Nikita Kucherov has 13 goals and that number tops the NHL goal-scoring list, while Vlad Namestnikov has chipped in with 13 points at center. This is the most dangerous forward line in the league at this particular point in time.

It looks like Brendan Smith will be a healthy scratch on the blueline tonight, marking the return to the lineup of Nick Holden. Alain Vigneault and his staff continue to move bodies in, out and around in an attempt to find some much-needed chemistry in their own end of the ice. Recently, the Blueshirts have scored enough to win hockey games. The same cannot be said about defending. The 47 goals allowed puts them 30th overall in the 31-team league. Needless to say, that has to improve.

[Coverage of the Rangers-Lightning Tilt Starts Tonight at 6:30 PM on MSG and MSG GO. Download Free]

This will be a significant measuring stick for the Rangers. There have been moments of play where it has looked like a corner has been turned, while the reality is there haven’t been enough of those moments. Tampa will force the Blueshirts to pay attention for 60 minutes. The belief is that this road game, against this opponent, at this time, is what this team needs to get this thing closer to the rails.


1. Slow it Down-Muddy the Waters

The Rangers cannot get into a run-and-gun game against Tampa. They do not have the weapons. Clogging up the neutral zone, icing the puck and playing with less “dare,” while not pretty, will balance the difference in skill.

2. Defending as 5

Getting outmanned in the defensive zone will mean that the Lightning will have numbers and space. That is a dangerous situation for an opponent that leads the league in goals for.

3. Krieder-Zibanejad-Buchnevich

All three played a significant role in the victory over Vegas. Every team needs someone or some group to drive the process and this threesome did just that against the Golden Knights. They will need to be good once again tonight.

[Coverage of the Rangers-Lightning Tilt Starts Tonight at 6:30 PM on MSG and MSG GO. Download Free]