Rangers Welcome McDonagh Back Against Hurricanes

The Rangers face the Carolina Hurricanes for the second of four meetings this season tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Led by two goals each from Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast the Blueshirts prevailed in the first game between the two teams by a 6-1 count on November 22 in Raleigh.

[Watch Rangers-Hurricanes on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start for the 14th consecutive time despite getting pulled in his last outing after giving up three goals on the first six shots he faced against Florida. The competitive Metro Division warrants the Rangers to continue riding the shoulders of the team’s most important player, Henrik Lundqvist.

The Rangers have run the table by winning the last 13 games at The Garden against Carolina dating back to January 5, 2011. Lundqvist is 11-0-0 with a 1.25 GAA and a sparkling save percentage of .959% during this stretch of success. While the past is certainly something to latch on to, this is a much different Hurricane team, despite the result of the first game this season between the teams. They cannot be taken lightly.

On the injury front, Ryan McDonagh will return tonight after missing the past four games due to an abdominal strain. While the club managed a more than a respectable 3-1-0 record in his absence, make no mistake they are better with the captain back in the lineup. The Blueshirts gave up the last minute game-winner against the Panthers by coughing up the puck in their own end. It may have been a different result if their best defender had been in the lineup. McDonagh would have likely been on the ice in that situation.

Unfortunately, the news is not so good when it comes to top forward Mika Zibanejad. After being a last-minute scratch against the Panthers it turns out that concussion syndrome issues have been diagnosed and Zibanejad will be out indefinitely.

The source of the problem goes back two games ago when he took a hit from Darren Helm in the game against Detroit. It sounds like the proper concussion protocol was followed and the injury is just another example of how complicated the concussion issue is. This season, Zibanejad was expected to take his game to the next level and he has done just that. He will be missed.

[Carpiniello: How Will Rangers Cope Without Zibanejad?]


1. Tighten the D

The blueline stands to be in better shape with the return of McDonagh. That being said, managing the puck in the defensive zone needs to be better. Keeping it away from and not moving it to the middle of the ice when under duress will help tighten things up in the Rangers end of the ice.

[8 Facts to Know for Rangers-Hurricanes]

2. Power Play

The absence of Mika Zibanejad will certainly not help a power play that has struggled recently scoring just one goal in their last 18 man-up situations. Speed through the neutral zone to get into the opponents end and a little puck luck should make for a better result on the power play.

3. Hank

Rebounding off a night where speaking of puck luck, he got very little of it, Lundqvist will be expected to stand tall. The Hurricanes have a nice compliment of grind and skill and will create their opportunities. Grade A goaltending will be needed.

[Watch Rangers-Hurricanes on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]