Zibanejad Returns As Rangers Host Ducks

The Rangers face the Anaheim Ducks this evening at The Garden for the first of two meetings of the season between the two clubs.

They will meet for the final time in the regular season in Anaheim at the end of January.

[5 Facts to Know For Rangers-Ducks]

Recent home cooking has fared well for the Blueshirts as they have garnered at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games at The Garden while compiling an 11-1-1 record over that stretch. Tonight’s game begins a sequence of three out of the next four at home with the road game being in New Jersey on Thursday night. After that though, the road grind begins.

Twenty-eight of the final 45 games will be played away from the recently-friendly confines of Madison Square Garden.

[Watch Rangers-Ducks Tuesday on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]

The Rangers are coming off back-to-back wins on back-to-back nights after beating Los Angeles at home and Boston in Beantown. Each game was played with playoff-type intensity and while there were a number of candidates who stood out, none stood taller than Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh was an absolute tower of strength anchoring the blueline with his smart puck moving and powerful skating game. One can’t help but wonder if the lower-body issue wasn’t the sole issue that resulted in a somewhat slower start to the season for the captain. Healthy now, McDonagh sets the standard on the backend and needs to be who he was this past weekend more often than not, for the Rangers to have continued success.

[Carpiniello: Rangers Displaying Character & Will]

Mika Zibanejad makes his return after missing nine games due to a concussion. He will once again find himself on the top unit flanked by Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. The return of his right-handed shot will give the Rangers power play significantly more options. In the bigger picture, any team has a better chance when their best players are healthy and in the lineup. No guarantees mind you, but a better chance.

Mika Zibanejad talks about how he's feeling and when he expects to be back in the Rangers lineup.

The Ducks are coming off a 5-3 loss to the Devils last night in Newark. Anaheim has battled injuries to top players all season and yet have managed to stay competitive with a 14-12-8 record in the Pacific Division.

No injury issues for forward Andrew Cogliano though. Remarkably, the speedy winger has not missed a game in his NHL career. The run began on October 7, 2007 as a rookie with the Edmonton Oilers and tonight marks the 821st consecutive game of an amazing stretch of health. That is 4th best all-time in consecutive games played and given how reckless today’s game can be at times, it sure seems to be a true testament to mind-over-matter with Cogliano.

Brady Skjei, Ryan McDonagh and Brendan Smith discuss how the depth of the Rangers has helped carry the team and how excited they are to have Mika Zibanejad return.

3 KEYS TO RANGERS-DUCKS

1. Starting with the Puck

With the return of Zibanejad, the Rangers proficiency at face-offs will improve. That being said, Ducks center Antoine Vermette is second in the NHL in face-off % at 60.1%. Who starts with the possession off a face-off will bear watching this evening.

2. Western Conference Hockey Again

The last two home games have been against Dallas and Los Angeles, both teams who employ a “heavy,” more physical game. The Rangers have gotten three out of four points in those encounters by being willing to take and/or give a hit to make a play. The same holds true for the Ducks. Expect it to be physical.

Henrik Lundqvist talks about how the Rangers have found ways to win and how important every game is with how tight the standings are.

3. Lundqvist-Gibson

The King continues to be brilliant. Competitive while battling through traffic to hold his positioning this past weekend, when all else failed it was Henrik to the rescue. His opponent, John Gibson, has been Anaheim’s best player on a night-to-night basis. Another night of a terrific goaltending matchup.

[Watch Rangers-Ducks Tuesday on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]