Rangers-Senators, tonight, MSG, hoping the second verse is the same as the first. After defeating Ottawa 3-1 on the road Wednesday, the two teams meet against tonight in New York. Following tonight's contest, the Blueshirts welcome the Blackhawks tomorrow. While you never count on a win, the schedule is aligned to potentially result in a three-game win streak and improved feelings after a rough stretch.
Scratches: Carpenter, Jones
I am predicting that Igor Shesterkin
is between the pipes tonight with Jaroslav Halak
to go tomorrow. As I wrote yesterday, it's certainly possible that Gerard Gallant and goaltender coach Benoit Allaire double-down on Halak and have him face Ottawa again. But I think they will go to Igor tonight, Halak tomorrow and then make the call on St. Louis on Monday. Once Shesterkin strings together a few good starts and is in a better mental state, then we will see a return to the 1A and B roles for Igor and Halak.
: Igor was the first goalie off the ice this morning, indicating he is the likely starter)
What I want to see tonight is continued growth for Vitali Kravtsov
. He likely has rust still to chip off after sitting for weeks despite playing Wednesday. Game by game, the hope has to be that the skill level shines through above and beyond the in-game struggles he might have. If Kravtsov can be a top-nine winger and start to show why he was a first round pick, that lengthens the Rangers' lineup, potentially remediating some of the scoring ills we have seen.
One update is that Kravtsov looks to have been moved up to the second line with Kakko Kaapo sliding down a line. I expect the third line to now grind down teams, but my question is which one of the three on that unit will be the scorer? Plus, why Gallant can't allow a line to try and build chemistry and success is beyond me, but maybe this accelerates Kravtsov's development and growth, though it increases the pressure on him to produce ASAP.
sits tonight for Libor Hajek
, which is mildly surprising. But maybe Hajek goes tonight and Jones tomorrow. I didn't think Jones did anything specific to come out of the lineup, so it's possible this is just going with one player tonight and the other tomorrow.
I wrote the below on the power play
yesterday, but including it again as I think it's critical based on what we have seen recently. One strategy would be to split up PP1 with the other to use PP2 more often. Gallant has been reluctant to do either, so unless he makes tactical changes to the PP - as I noted below - then the other change has to be with personnel or deployment/usage. Choose one and go with it
The power play has become way too predictable. Go cross ice to Zib for the one-timer or try for Kredier deflection. The lack of puck and player movement is very evident lately. Fox doesn't have a howitzer of a shot, so getting clearer angles for attempts is key. New York has to get to moving in the offensive zone to avoid getting stagnant and forcing the D and goalies to have more options to defend rather than one or two.