New York Rangers set to host red-hot Auston Matthews and Leafs

rangers vs maple leafs
Oct 18, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) reacts after missing a scoring chance during overtime against the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers are returning home after going 3-2-0 on their season-high five-game trip despite being forced to shuffle their lineup due to various players landing in the NHL’s health and safety protocol.

New York fared well on its trip despite Artemi Panarin, Igor Shesterkin, Julien Gauthier, Barclay Goodrow, Alexis Lafreniere and Ryan Reeves, along with coach Gerard Gallant, missing time in the protocol.

New York ended the trip with an impressive third period showing in a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday when Chris Kreider scored the tiebreaking goal with 6:30 left and nearly three minutes after Filip Chytil netted the tiebreaking goal. Mika Zibanejad also scored and has six of his 14 goals during New York’s 6-3-0 surge in the past nine games.

Rangers getting healthier

“We talked about it, and to come out of this trip over .500 would be real good,” Gallant said. “You always want to win every game you play, but there was a lot going on for our team — more so than any other time this year missing all the guys.

Kreider scored four times and Zibanejad scored three times on the trip to help the Rangers withstand various absences. New York should be playing with a more normal roster Wednesday. As of Tuesday’s practice, only Lafreniere remained in the protocol and Goodrow had cleared the protocol.

The Rangers are 5-2-0 in the past seven meetings and the teams traded 2-1 wins in Toronto earlier this season.

The New York Rangers announced on Tuesday that forward Barclay Goodrow had cleared COVID protocol. In addition, Dryden Hunt has come off injured reserve after suffering an upper-body issue against the Golden Knights on January 6.

“They should be fine,” Gallant said of their availability for tomorrow against the Maple Leafs. “(Goodrow) is out of protocol. They both skated today, so I don’t see any issue with them.”

Gallant has yet to decide on lines

As for what lines they will be playing on, the head coach was non-committal and even alluded to some mixing and matching.

The fate of Morgan Barron, Tim Gettinger, and Jonny Brodzinski remains to be seen but it sounded like Gallant will ride the horses that got him here.

“They’re tough (lineup) decisions, but they’re common sense decisions,” Gallant admitted. “I know my team. We’ve been together almost 40 games now, so if those guys are ready to come in, they are going to play.”

Goodrow was on line with Hunt and Gauthier yesterday which is what we should see tonight.

Brodzinski did practice in Ryan Strome’s place, who once again missed the team skate.

“No, no. He’ll be ready to go tomorrow,” Gallant said of Strome. “Another maintenance day. I’d obviously like to see him skate today but he’s ready to go.”

Leafs Matthews looking to tie record

rangers vs maple leafs
Oct 18, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) makes a save on a wraparound shot by Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) during overtime at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a slew of COVID-19 postponements, the interruptions have hardly stopped Auston Matthews’ ability to score goals — especially in road games.

Matthews can tie an NHL record by scoring in his 11th straight road game Wednesday night when his Toronto Maple Leafs visit the New York Rangers.

Matthews comes to the Big Apple with 25 goals, right behind Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl for the league lead.

He has 13 goals on the road and if he scores Wednesday, Matthews will tie the NHL record initially set by Steve Yzerman for the Detroit Red Wings in 1988-89 and matched by Pavel Bure in 1993-94 for the Vancouver Canucks.

Matthews last went scoreless in a road game on Nov. 21 against the New York Islanders and he has scored 12 goals during the road streak. He helped Toronto to a 6-5 win Saturday in St. Louis by scoring a game-tying power-play goal. Five minutes later, Ilya Mikheyev scored the game-winning goal with 3:15 remaining in the third period.

“It’s deadly,” Toronto’s Mitch Marner said of Matthews’ road streak. “It’s something that we love having on our team.”

Matthews and Leafs hot

Matthews’ surge has helped Toronto go 5-1-1 in their past seven games and 6-2-2 in their past 10 road games.

Marner also scored Saturday after missing six games during Matthews’ streak due to COVID-19 and a shoulder injury.

“Hopefully, we can consistently play with each other, practice, in games,” Matthews said. “It would be nice to get in a rhythm and see each other every single day and continue to grow chemistry-wise and hopefully continue to have nights like (against the Blues) where we control the play a lot.”

Matthews is making his first trip to Madison Square Garden since scoring twice on Feb. 5, 2020, and this time the Rangers are among the best teams in the NHL.

Toronto announced Tuesday that defenseman Jake Muzzin will miss the game — and the team’s NYC swing — after being diagnosed with a concussion. Muzzin will remain in Toronto, also missing Saturday’s game at the New York Islanders.

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–Field Level Media contributed to this article.