Di Giuseppe a healthy scratch for today’s rematch

The Rangers take on the Devils in a little while at The Prudential Center this afternoon. It’s a rematch between the Hudson rivals.

New York took the third meeting 6-1 highlighted by a Chris Kreider hat trick and Igor Shestyorkin making 32 saves. He left the game with 5:52 left due to a mild groin strain. A fortunate outcome considering the amount of pain he was in leaving the ice.

Alex Georgiev gets the nod versus Mackenzie Blackwood in the fourth meeting of eight against the Devils in Newark. A Ranger win would even the season series. The Devils took the first two at MSG.

With the return of Kaapo Kakko to the lineup, coach David Quinn has decided to healthy scratch Colin Blackwell. One of his best players this season. It is puzzling. Blackwell is a hardworking gritty forward who has five goals and three assists. That includes two power play goals off redirections Phil Di Giuseppe.

UPDATE: Apparently, Quinn changed his mind on Colin Blackwell. I never understood why he was considering sitting a player who has five goals including two on the power play plus three assists.

What about Brendan Lemieux? A player who’s underachieving. He took a bad penalty in the offensive zone. Even though it didn’t lead to a goal, he hasn’t done enough to justify staying in the lineup over Di Giuseppe, who brings a more consistent game. I prefer what PDG has added to this team. He has assisted on some goals and finishes checks. He got credit for his first goal recently by going to the net. Instead, he’s the odd man out.

With Kakko back, he’ll play with the sizzling Kreider and Ryan Strome on the second line. He missed over a week due to COVID-19. He was eligible to return a few nights ago, but needed some practice time. It’s a golden opportunity for the second-year Finnish right wing to tale advantage. He should also see power play time.

Julien Gauthier has earned a further look in the lineup. He will continue to play alongside Filip Chytil and Kevin Rooney. Chytil is centering the third line. Rooney will take the face-offs. Gauthier will look to continue his improvement.

Brett Howden stays in the lineup due to his penalty killing. The Rangers rank fifth in the league due to a more aggressive kill that doesn’t give opponents a lot of time. Howden is part of an effective unit that features Rooney, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. Strome and Kreider can also kill penalties. It’s mostly Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox on defense out getting the job done. Brendan Smith and Jack Johnson kill penalties as can K’Andre Miller.

Zibanejad picked up an assist on Alexis Lafreniere’s fourth goal. He is still without an even strength goal. He remains centering the first line with Lafreniere and Buchnevich. Both are playing well. Lafreniere has a four- game point streak (3-2-5). Buchnevich has nine points over his last eight.

The game starts after 1 EST.

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 Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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