New York Rangers take on Panthers to kick off 2023

The New York Rangers are looking to start stringing together some wins and moving up the Metropolitan Division to ring in the New Year.

Coming into action for a late afternoon start against the Florida Panthers, the Blueshirts sit in a three-way tie for fourth with 44 points. Officially they are sixth in the Metro with the Penguins, who are in fourth (points percentage) and Islanders in fifth (regulation and overtime wins). That also leaves them out of a playoff spot if the season were to end today.

“It’s a work in progress,” Gallant said. “I like our pieces. We’re going to be a good hockey team. We have to be more consistent. It’s not a whole lot different than a lot of teams in our position. You look at the standings and it’s pretty tight. Like I said I think we can be better and we know that.”

Here’s tonight’s game and broadcast info:

New York Rangers (19-12-6) vs. Florida Panthers (16-17-4)
Date/Time: January 1, 2023 at 5:00 PM ET
Arena: FLA LIVE ARENA
TV: MSG
Radio: ESPN 1050

New York Rangers ready for New Year

panthers vs rangers
Dec 29, 2021; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) controls the puck against New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the first period at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers played lightyears better in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Lightning than they did in a 4-0 loss to the Capitals coming out of the holiday break. While that’s a positive, it’s very little consolation with points at a premium in a super-tight Metropolitan Division.

One of the biggest areas of concern is the power play that has gone 1-17 in its last four games. That ineptitude coincides with their 1-2-1 record during that stretch.

“I think we’ve had chances,” Mika Zibanejad said. “I don’t think it’s a problem getting into the zone or struggling to get set up. Maybe a little more desperation. Maybe a little more direct when we get a chance to shoot and the other four guys are ready to crash the net.”

Another storyline to watch heading into 2023 is how Alexis Lafreniere responds to his one-game ban due to inconsistent play.

“It’s part of being a young man,” Gallant explained. “He’s 21 years-old and played parts of three years in the league obviously with COVID… It’s not a big deal. Sometimes the kids say, ‘I’m going to come back and play real well.’ We’ll see what happens.”

Per the lines at practice on Saturday, Lafreniere is expected to play left wing with Filip Chytil and Jimmy Vesey. He has 17 points in 36 games this season.

Igor Shesterkin is expected to get the start in goal today. He’s 2-1-0 in three career starts versus the Panthers with a GAA of 3.05 and a .920 save percentage.

UPDATE: Jaroslav Halak in goal, Jonny Brodzinski scratched.

Panthers struggling this season

After winning the Presidents’ Trophy with 122 points last season, Florida dismissed interim head coach Andrew Brunette for veteran Paul Maurice. The results to date have not gone as hoped as they sit in sixth place in the Atlantic and well out of a playoff spot (8 points).

Coming into today’s matchup, the Panthers were shutout by the red-hot Hurricanes 4-0. They are also just 1-4-0 in their last five matches and will be a hungry team.

Summer trade acquisition Matthew Tkachuk leads the team with 43 points on the season and is the player to watch. That doesn’t mean the Rangers defense should sleep on Aleksander Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe, or Sam Reinhart.

The Achilles heel for the Cats has been goaltending with Sergei Bobrovsky sporting an .897 save percentage and both goalie with a GAA over 3 (Bobrovsky 3.23 and Spencer Knight 3.00).

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