It isn’t a revelation that the Rangers will go with the same lineup that won convincingly over the Islanders this past Saturday. Coach David Quinn usually will stick with what works for the short-term. How can anyone argue this early in the season?
When the Rangers host the Devils at MSG tonight, it’ll once again be Alex Georgiev in net. He is coming fresh off a 23 save shutout. Igor Shestyorkin will be the backup. Given that the Devils, who are off to a good start after taking three of four points against Boston, they’ll likely roll with starter Mackenzie Blackwood in goal. He’s looked excellent so far only allowing three goals in two games.
With Quinn liking how well his team responded, Tony DeAngelo will again sit out. The defense pairs will be the same. That means the new top pair of Ryan Lindgren and Jacob Trouba. A tandem I’m not against. Especially if they want to have a shutdown D pair. Both worked well together in the 5-0 win over the Islanders.
By keeping them together, it allows rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller to have less pressure while paired with Brendan Smith, who had an excellent season debut. He picked up the lone assist on Artemi Panarin’s breakaway goal and played a simple game while mixing it up. The tandem finished plus-three each.
That also means veteran Jack Johnson works with Adam Fox for a second consecutive game. With Johnson making no mistakes next to Fox, he stays in the lineup. There’s nothing wrong with it as long as they monitor his ice time. He kills penalties as does Smith. It’s all about finding the right match-ups at five-on-five. The Rangers are the home team and have the last change.
Regarding the power play, Quinn is happy with it despite going 1-for-8 on Saturday. He felt both units had enough looks. There is a possibility Pavel Buchnevich could move up to the top unit in place of Ryan Strome. That would give the first unit another left shot. Normally, it’s only net presence Chris Kreider with right shots Panarin, Strome, Mika Zibanejad and DeAngelo, who for now is out. Instead, Fox is on the point in his place. He usually is on the second unit.
The second unit had a different look the other day. Brett Howden was added to that unit and was effective due to winning offensive draws. He’s over 54.0 percent so far which leads a face-off challenged team. That might be why he’s been receiving more ice time including the penalty kill where he’s been a fixture. If only he had more scoring touch.
Quinn has expressed an interest in seeing what Filip Chytil can bring to the second power play. More of a skilled offensive player, he isn’t as effective in the dot. He’s winning below 30.0 percent. That’s an area he must improve on. Given the skill he can bring, if they did flip Buchnevich with Strome, the second line center could take the draws. That would work. Without DeAngelo, Trouba has gotten point time on the second unit. Brendan Lemieux was used in the second game and Alexis Lafreniere has been featured.
If there is any other change, Kaapo Kakko could eventually get back on the man-advantage. He alternated during the morning skate. Kakko belongs on the power play with there more operating room for him to be a shooting threat. Especially after notching his first of the season on a well executed play through the neutral zone from Chytil and Phil Di Giuseppe. It’s only a matter of time before Kakko is teamed up with Lafreniere on the power play.
With Quinn sticking with the same lineup, that means more of Lafreniere on line two with Panarin and Strome. The 19-year old top pick is still looking for his first NHL point. He’s had chances. Maybe it happens later tonight. Strome also is without a point in two games.
The third line of Chytil, Di Giuseppe and Kakko will stay intact after a good game. Hopefully, they’ll be able to get more shifts. They didn’t see as much ice time due to all the power plays. Plus none of the three kill penalties. Something Howden does while anchoring the checking line. He’ll again be teamed with Lemieux and Julien Gauthier, who hopefully will find more shifts. They need to find about him.
As for the Devils, keep an eye on the top line centered by sophomore Jack Hughes. He comes in looking more confident and stronger, having set up three goals. So far, Lindy Ruff has used Hughes with promising rookie Yegor Sharangovich and Kyle Palmieri. They have good chemistry.
It’s the play of that line that is worth watching. Especially Sharangovich, who scored his first NHL goal with 1.7 seconds left in overtime to defeat the Bruins over the weekend. He’s a very good skater that’s very fast and skilled. He scored 17 goals in the KHL this season before being recalled.
Without Nico Hischier, it’s Pavel Zacha centering the second line and proven veteran Travis Zajac anchoring the third line. Here’s how the lines looked during yesterday’s practice.
A rookie defenseman to watch is former first pick Ty Smith. He scored his first goal and followed it up with an assist. The left shooting defenseman can get his shot through and has shown confidence. He is paired with Matt Tennyson, who has supplanted Will Butcher on the third pair.
The Devils are still without Jesper Bratt, who must wait until being cleared due to waiting on visas. If he was playing, he’d be in the top nine. Ditto for veteran D Sami Vatanen.
P.K. Subban is looking for a bounce back year. So far, he’s been shutout in the goal department. Even though he isn’t what he once was, you always have to account for his big shot. Especially on the power play.
Damon Severson came up with a big assist to lead Sharangovich in for his overtime winner. It was a quick no look pass. He now is being used in more of a leadership role with an alternate. A good skater, Severson can be an offensive factor.
It’ll be Blackwood making his third straight start. He’s really been sharp thus far. Scott Wedgewood backs up.
This is the first of eight meetings between the Hudson rivals.