Rangers Look To Start Trip Strong Versus Colorado

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The Rangers look to gain ground in the Metropolitan division as they face the Colorado Avalanche to begin a week long, West Coast trip. The Rangers are coming off a thrilling 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. New York currently holds the first Wild Card playoff spot and are only seven points behind the first place Washington Capitals. The Avalanche previously defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-3, keeping an eight game winning streak alive. Last time these two teams met was on Opening Night at MSG, where Colorado spoiled the Rangers’ festivities, handing them a 4-2 loss.

Kevin Shattenkirk will miss tomorrow’s game and is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus. He has played with the injury since September, which will now require surgery. Shattenkirk’s injury makes way for a call up and the Rangers did just that. New York will bring Defenseman Tony DeAngelo and Forward Daniel Catenacci from Hartford. DeAngelo will slot into Shattenkirk’s spot, while Catenacci will more than likely be insurance for the injured Kevin Hayes.

Keys To The Game

Continued Production From Nash, Buch and Zib – Before Tuesday’s game versus Philly, Alain Vigneault shuffled line combinations once more, this time placing a struggling Rick Nash with a slumping Pavel Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad. This switch seemed to have sparked a fire somewhere, as that line has provided this team with a much needed boost for two incredibly vital games last week. Rick Nash seems like a new man, scoring 4 goals in those last two games and seemingly looking more involved in the action than before. The same can be said for Pavel Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad. This line seems like they have an incredible amount of chemistry that can only do good for this hockey club. The Rangers will want to see more of this as they take on a streaking hot Avalanche club.

Keeping The Lead And Stay Out Of The Box – The Rangers struggled to keep Buffalo off the score sheet in their last game as they allowed Buffalo to tie the game on three separate occasions, including giving up two power play goals from Kyle Okposo and Rasmus Ristolainen. Luckily, Pavel Buchnevich was able to pot a goal at 16:02 of the third, shortly after the Sabres tied the game. New York needs to do a better job at keeping the lead and most importantly, a better job needs to be done staying out of the box. Although the Rangers PK is ranked 5th overall in the league, shooting yourself in the foot by taking penalties will not do any team any good. The Rangers will need to keep this in mind for the game this afternoon.

Fighting Through Injuries And Proving Your Worth – First Chris Kreider falls victim to blood clots, Kevin Shattenkirk has a torn meniscus, Marc Staal is day to day with a strained hip flexor and Kevin Hayes is day to day with a contusion. Adding in previous injuries to players like Mika Zibanejad and Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers have fought the injury bug this season. These holes now withstanding, players like Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Smith, Steve Kampfer and the rest of the Rangers D corps will need to prove their worth and play as a complete unit to make up the loss of Staal and Shattenkirk. Same goes for the forwards, whether Daniel Catenacci sees any action, Peter Holland, Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller or the newly formed Nash-Buchnevich-Zibanejad line, the forwards will need to make up for the loss of Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes. Although the Rangers aren’t without key pieces, they have proven before they can play through the injury bug. Their past resilience will need to rear it’s head again for today’s matchup.

Players To Watch

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Rick Nash – This season, there have been spurts where we felt like we’ve seen the Rick Nash of old. These last two games versus Philadelphia and Buffalo have invigorated the power forward to reach classic Nash in some way. This seems to be a byproduct of being lined up with Pavel Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad, who have given Nash a boost that is needed for this team right now. He seems to be feeding off the creativity of both Buchnevich and Zibanejad, all the while he seems to have an extra “pep” in his step, which always benefits a player like Nash. Look for him to be a presence on the ice for the Rangers this afternoon.

Colorado Avalanche

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Nathan MacKinnon – There is a reason why Nathan MacKinnon was drafted first overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. After scoring twice versus San Jose in the Avalanche’s last win, MacKinnon is showing the league that he is an elite talent and force to be reckoned with. Currently, MacKinnon is leading the Avs in points, which is the polar opposite of previous years, as it seemed that he would not fulfill his potential as a first round pick. Strong on the puck, with soft hands and incredible speed, MacKinnon is spearheading the Avalanche’s current hot streak. Look for him to try and keep his team’s hot streak going versus the Rangers this afternoon.

The puck drops at 3.

LETS GO RANGERS.