The New York Rangers recently granted Alain Vigneault an extension that will keep him manning the bench at Madison Square Garden through the 2019-20 season.
Vigneault gets his first chance to prove it was a good move tonight, when the Rangers kick off their post-All-Star break slate with a showdown with a fellow Metropolitan Division contender, the Columbus Blue Jackets (7:00, MSG+).
The Rangers (31-17-1) won three of their final four games before the break, but fell in the last, a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers last Wednesday. Despite putting up 34 shots and overall controlling play, the Rangers were unable to break through Steve Mason. All-Star MVP Wayne Simmonds had a goal for the Flyers, as did Jakub Voracek.
The Blue Jackets (32-12-4) also dropped their final game before the break, a 4-3 decision to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Brandon Saad opened the scoring for Columbus, giving them a 1-0 lead after one, but three unanswered Nashville goals sank the Jackets. Zach Wereneski was able to cut the lead to 3-2, but Craig Smith’s third period goal put the game out of reach. Ryan Murray was able to make things interesting with a late score, but Nashville head them off the rest of the way.
This will be the third meeting between the Rangers and Blue Jackets, both of whom are chasing valuable playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, as well as the crowded Metropolitan Division. The two teams have split their set thus far this season, both at Columbus’s Nationwide Arena. The last game featured a thrilling Rangers comeback, part of a 5-4 New York victory. The Rangers made up a 4-1 deficit, paced by Michael Grabner’s hat trick, which included the game-tying and winning goals. Oscar Lindberg and Adam Clendening also scored their first goals of the season.
The two teams will meet twice more this season, completing their season series next month.
The Rangers are expected to welcome back both Marc Staal and Antti Raanta back to their active lineup tonight.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490