When they visit Montreal at Bell Center later tonight, the Rangers will have two new faces debuting. Alexandar Georgiev will make his NHL debut in net after missing a chance last weekend due to illness.
It’ll be a rare game between Original Six rivals where neither Henrik Lundqvist nor Carey Price will be starting. That’s how bad the Rangers and Canadiens are. While the Blueshirts still have 59 points despite a lot of losing since the All-Star break, the Habs are even worse. They haven’t won in a while with a overtime loss giving them 52 points, which ties them with Edmonton and Ottawa for the league’s third worst record. Arizona has 44 points for the worst and Buffalo has 45.
So, a year removed from a very intense first round series won by the Rangers in six games, both teams are headed for early vacations without the playoffs. The Rangers haven’t missed since 2010 on the last day of the season when the Flyers edged them in a shootout. The only time the Lundqvist Blueshirts haven’t qualified since he joined them in ‘05-06.
In unfamiliar territory with GM Jeff Gorton working the phones after sending Nick Holden to the Bruins for Rob O’Gara and a 2018 third round pick, they’ll soon learn where Rick Nash and Michael Grabner will wind up. Time is winding down with the trade deadline arriving next Monday, Feb. 26.
With rumors also surrounding injured captain Ryan McDonagh could either be moved now or likelier this summer, things have been relatively quiet around the top defenseman. He has a year remaining on a contract that pays him an AAV of $4.7 million. He remains out with a undisclosed injury.
The acquisition of the Massapequa native O’Gara gives him a opportunity to show what he can do. In Boston after being taken in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Draft, he only played in 11 games including eight this season. With the Bruins not having room for him, they sent him to New York where he will get a chance to be part of a rebuild.
A defensive defenseman, O’Gara will be paired with John Gilmour tonight. Having spent four years at Yale and most of his first two pro seasons with Providence in the AHL, he gets a clean slate. Listed at 6-4, 207 pounds, the left shooting defenseman can bring size and physicality to a mobile blueline that lacks it.
With O’Gara staying with the big club, the Rangers optioned Ryan Sproul to Hartford. He was a surprise tallying assists in consecutive losses. Overall, the Rangers have dropped four straight all in regulation. They are six points behind second wildcard Columbus.
In a move which could signal another trade on the cusp, they recalled forward Vinni Lettieri. It sounded like things were heating up on Grabner. We’ll see if anything happens.
This is the third and final meeting against Montreal. The teams split the first two way back in the Fall with the Rangers taking the first one at MSG and losing the second meeting at Bell Centre.