Rangers host Stars with Pavelec starting

The Rangers play host to the Stars tonight. The game starts at 7 PM and can be seen on MSG. It’s a busy schedule with this being the club’s third game in four days.

So, Ondrej Pavelec gets the nod in goal. It’ll be his first home start since 10/26. The backup fared well in place of a flu ridden Henrik Lundqvist last week making 41 saves in a 4-3 win at the Penguins. If he can duplicate that, the Rangers have a good chance of winning.

Dallas plays in the competitive Central Division. They’re tied with the Blackhawks and Jets in points (33) sitting just outside a wildcard. They’ve played 30 games and enter with a 16-13-1 record. Ten of those wins have come at home. On the road, they’ve struggled with a 6-9-1 record.

The Stars are led by dynamic duo Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Seguin leads them in scoring with 14 goals and 28 points with five power play goals and three game winners. Benn is 12-13-25 with nine power play points. The addition of Alexander Radulov has given them another potent weapon. A feisty player, Radulov leads Dallas forwards with 16 assists and has 25 points. He’s not afraid to mix it up as the Rangers know from last Spring’s nasty first round series against Montreal.

John Klingberg is the leading Dallas defenseman with a team high 21 assists. At 4-21-25, the right shooting D must be accounted for. He is like a extra forward on the forecheck. Great at keeping the puck in, he can get his shot through and is a great passer.

If there’s a underrated player, it’s Radek Faksa. His 10 goals aren’t a accident. He’s a good secondary scorer who has one of their three shorthanded goals and tops them in plus/minus (11).

Jason Spezza isn’t as productive anymore but is still a threat due to his speed in transition. Number 90 can still fly. He’s only got five goals and six helpers. But can’t be forgotten.

Antoine Roussel is one of those royal pain in the asses. A tough hard nosed forward who likes physicality, he goes to the hard areas and makes life difficult. With three goals and six assists along with 47 penalty minutes, he is a effective player on the forecheck. The kind the Rangers lack.

Under Ken Hitchcock, Dallas isn’t scoring as consistently. They are in the middle of the pack averaging 2.93 goals per game compared with the Rangers’ 3.34 goals per game.

But the Stars can get into shootouts. Ben Bishop gets most of the starts. He’s won 13 games with a 2.74 GAA and .909 save percentage. A big goalie, he can be moved side to side. Kari Lehtonen backs up. He’s 3-4-0 with a 2.70 GAA and .903 save percentage. No stranger to MSG, he’s played the Rangers plenty throughout a solid career that began with the Thrashers.

The Rangers want to keep it going after a big 5-2 win over the Devils. It’ll be interesting to see how they play in front of Pavelec. He will get into some games now that the schedule is busier.

Mats Zuccarello comes off a two goal game and is starting to pick it up. The fourth line centered by Boo Nieves has been hit. Whether it’s Jesper Fast or Jimmy Vesey with Nieves and Paul Carey, Alain Vigneault now has the luxury of rolling four lines. He hasn’t been afraid to shorten up in the third period going with the best three lines.

J.T. Miller has settled in as a center and continues to rack up assists while playing with Zuccarello and Michael Grabner.

Mika Zibanejad will miss his seventh straight game due to a concussion. He’s getting closer to being cleared for contact. Once he is, he will be back. For now, David Desharnais will center the cohesive Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich.

Kevin Hayes will continue to be matched against the best lines. So, figure him to see plenty of Benn and Seguin.

On Garden Of Dreams night, it should be prett special. Hopefully, the team delivers another win on home ice. They’ve won 10 of their last 11 at The Garden.


About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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