Grabner and Nash return at Detroit


The Rangers and Red Wings will drop the puck in a few minutes. The third and final match-up between the classic Original Six rivals will be the final game the Rangers play at Joe Louis Arena. Barring a miracle, the 14th place Red Wings won’t be extending their playoff streak to 26. It’ll finally end.

The first two games saw the teams combine for four total goals. Detroit took the first match at MSG 2-1 thanks to Jimmy Howard. The Rangers took the second match at The Joe 1-0 thanks to Henrik Lundqvist and overtime hero J.T. Miller. It’ll be Antti Raanta against Petr Mrazek. Raanta’s first game as the starter with Lundqvist out at least two weeks.

The game is the first of four back-to-backs in the next two weeks. The Rangers return home tomorrow to host the Lightning, who are very much in play for the second wildcard following another win on Saturday combined with an Islanders loss at St. Louis. Toronto is back in the second wildcard by a point over the Isles with the Bolts within three despite less ROW. All three have 15 games left as well as the fading Panthers.

Meanwhile, Detroit has dropped out with 63 points. One better than the awful Devils, who have lost 10 straight games. Gone are the days when both teams dominated the competition. Now that they’re in the same conference, that’s no longer the case. They’re playing for the lottery and ping pong balls.

The Rangers get back two forwards into the lineup. Michael Grabner and Rick Nash return. Grabner will be reunited on the third line with Miller and Kevin Hayes. Both have struggled since he went down. Nash missed a game but is back to play with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich.

The fourth line will be Oscar Lindberg centering Tanner Glass and Jimmy Vesey. That means Brandon Pirri is finally out of the lineup. Hopefully, it’s for good. He just hasn’t brought anything since his good start. Matt Puempel is also out. Derek Stepan stays with Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello. Maybe Stepan will finally find the back of the net.

Alain Vigneault is sticking with his current D pairings even though Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh together is awkward. They don’t belong together. At least Nick Holden and Brendan Smith seem to have chemistry. Brady Skjei sticks with Steven Kampfer. He better play more than 15 minutes.

The game has already started. So, I’ll go watch and post a recap later.

 

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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