New York Rangers ready to bring their surge to Carolina
The Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers flexed their muscles in their last outings by matching their top offensive performances of the season.
Friday night, the Hurricanes and Rangers aim to keep the scoreboard operator busy when the Metropolitan Division rivals meet in Raleigh, N.C. in a battle for first place.
Rangers a contender, whether you believe it or not
The Rangers relished a solid finish in their 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. New York scored three times in the third period to secure its third straight win and seventh in nine games.
“I was a little worried, to be honest with you,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “We came out a little sleepy, obviously. Just seems that when you get back from those road trips, for whatever reason, the first period is tough. It was a tough one.”
The Rangers, who also scored six goals in a win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 7, have ascended to the top of the Metropolitan Division.
“It shows that we can hang with the big boys — that we are one of the big boys,” fourth-liner Ryan Reaves said following his unlikely two-goal performance. “We’ve got to keep beating the playoff teams, it’s something we’ve talked about. But I think we’re proving to the league, we’re proving to ourselves, that we’re a contender.”
Chris Kreider scored his team-leading 25th goal and sixth in his last seven games on Wednesday. He is third in the league in goals and three goals shy of matching his career high, set in 2016-17 and equaled in 2018-19.
Defenseman Adam Fox, who leads the team in assists (35, second most in the NHL) and points (42), has scored two goals and set up four others during his three-game point streak.
Mika Zibanejad had a pair of assists to extend his point streak to six games (three goals, four assists). He has 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in his last dozen games.
Igor Shesterkin likely will get the nod in goal for New York after securing a win in nine of his last 10 games. The 26-year-old Russian turned aside 27 of 29 shots to win his lone career encounter against Carolina.
Rangers taking it game by game
The Blueshirts are constantly reminded about being the new kids on the contenders block. However, whenever they’re asked the response to a man is basically the same.
“It’s one of the teams we haven’t faced yet. One of the top teams– it’ll definitely be a good challenge,” Jacob Trouba responded about facing the Hurricanes.
Head coach Gerard Gallant, who has been adamant about only being concerned about his team refused to put any emphasis on the opponent.
“There’s some real good teams (at the top of the Metro Division,” Gallant said. “It’s about the two points at the end of the night. I don’t care who we are playing. [The Hurricanes] are trying to catch us. We’re fortunate where we are at, and they’re the team looking up. If you can beat them it’s a four point game. But I still want to the two points against Arizona on Saturday.”
Former Rangers will play role in matchup
Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored twice as Carolina erupted for five goals in the first period en route to a 7-1 thrashing of the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. The Hurricanes, who improved to 11-2-1 in their last 14 games, also netted seven goals in beating the Columbus Blue Jackets on New Year’s Day.
Former Ranger Tony DeAngelo set up three goals on Tuesday to boost his assist total to 22, one shy of Sebastian Aho for the team lead. Fellow defensemen Jaccob Slavin also recorded a three-point performance (one goal, two assists), while four different forwards registered multi-point efforts.
DeAngelo has 28 points in 29 games to lead all Canes’ blue-liners.
“I would never talk bad about the organization because of the way they treat people, players, their families. I’m sure there is regret on both sides. There is on my side, for sure,” DeAngelo told the NY Post. “I know they didn’t want to put me on waivers. It wasn’t just, ‘Tony is going to get put on waivers.’ But I did disagree with the way that was handled.”
Another former Blueshirt is defenseman Brady Skjei, who has 14 points in 36 games with a +12 rating. He along with Brendan Smith and Jesper Fast were both teammates in DeAngelo and play a prominent role for Carolina.
“Our mindset coming into the game was in the right spot from the beginning,” said Carolina forward Derek Stepan, another former Ranger. “This was one of the good games that right from the start, we did a lot of the things we wanted to. That’s what you need on a consistent basis. Nothing changes going into the next one.”
Carolina will aim to stay hot with Frederik Andersen, who posted his 20th win in just 26 games this season on Tuesday. The 32-year-old Dane sports a 6-2-3 record in 11 career meetings with the Rangers.
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–Field Level Media contributed to this article.