New York Rangers need to shut down duo of McDavid and Draisaitl in Edmonton

Rangers have their hands full

By Field Level Media
Dec 31, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) is seen out on the ice as the New York Rangers center Greg McKegg (14) looks on during the first period at Rogers Place.Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers will face their toughest test of the season tonight. When Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid touch the puck, it is likely headed to the back of the net either in the form of a goal or an assist.

The duo has combined for 39 points to help the Edmonton Oilers get off to a dominant 8-1 start, and they look to keep it rolling Friday night when they host the Blueshirts.

Rangers need to be up to the challenge

The Rangers are tied with the Calgary Flames for the league lead with five road wins but are hoping to rebound after squandering a two-goal lead and taking a 3-2 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.

New York’s strong road start was built on an ability to score in the third period as it scored 10 times after the second period during its five-game road winning streak.

After Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin scored power-play goals in the second on Tuesday night, the Rangers gave up two goals in the first 5:19 of the third before falling in overtime.

“We made a couple mistakes. They obviously had a push back and scored on their chances in the third,” Zibanejad said. “I thought we did a pretty good job up until the third, but it wasn’t a full 60 minutes, and that’s why we sit here with the loss.”

The teams are meeting for the first time since Edmonton nearly blew a six-goal lead in a 7-5 home win on Dec. 31, 2019. The Oilers are also seeking a fifth straight win over the Rangers after dropping seven of the previous 10 encounters.

new york rangers
Nov 2, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) and forward Mika Zibanejad (93) and forward Artemi Panarin (10) celebrate Panarin’s goal against the Vancouver Canucks in the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Igor Shesterkin likely to get the start

The Blueshirts are off to their best start since the 2016-17 season with 14 points in their first 10 games. That’s due in large part to the goaltending of Igor Shesterkin. Head coach Gerard Gallant says that he will split the back-to-back with both goalies.

Shesterkin, 25, is likely to get the call against the high-powered attack of the Oilers on Friday as he was the first off the ice. Georgiev, also 25, will get the nod against the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

Reaves, 34, looked good at practice but remains on IR. He will be eligible to return for the game against the Oilers. Gallant is not sure he’ll play until the trainers give the green light today.

Risk of Oil Slick

Edmonton’s quick start is its best nine-game start since the 1985-86 team also opened 8-1 on the way to scoring 426 goals and attaining 119 points. The Oilers have scored 39 goals so far, including 13 times in 28 power-play opportunities thanks to the potent offense being produced by Draisaitl and McDavid.

In last year’s 56-game season, the duo combined for 64 of Edmonton’s 183 goals while also combining for 125 assists. So far, they are leading the scoring race by combining for 16 goals and 23 assists.

Draisaitl became the first player to reach 20 points Wednesday when he scored twice and added an assist in a 5-2 win over the visiting Nashville Predators. McDavid hiked his total to 19 points by setting up Draisaitl’s goals and Edmonton won by at least three goals for the fourth time so far.

“We’re all here to win,” said Draisaitl, the first player with 20 points in the first nine games of a season since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in 1996. “Individual stats, individual awards, I’ve been there and I’ve done that. I’m very proud of it, but that’s not why I’m here. That’s not why Connor’s here. That isn’t why anyone is here.”

Besides Draisaitl and McDavid’s potent production, the Oilers are getting a quick start from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent-Hopkins leads the NHL with 13 assists after getting two more Wednesday and is six shy of matching his assist total from last season.

NHL Roundup

Check out all the scores and highlights from the action on November 4, 2021. Read here.

–Field Level Media