Royalty will be on full display at Madison Square Garden tonight, as The King will square off against the one New York Rangers fans once called The Prince, as Henrik Lundqvist will face off against his former protege Cam Talbot in a battle of two of the hottest teams to start off the 2016-17 NHL season, as Lundqvist‘s Rangers battle the Edmonton Oilers (7:00, MSG).
The Rangers enter with a 7-3-0 mark, second in the Metropolitan Division, and have won two in a row, following up Sunday’s 6-1 win over Tampa Bay with another win of a five goal margin, blanking a team for the first time this season in 5-0 fashion, the victim being the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night. Jimmy Vesey had three points, including his team-high sixth goal of the season. With an assist in tonight’s game, Ryan McDonagh is set to tie Brian Leetch’s team record of nine straight games with an assist from a defenseman, set in January 1996. McDonagh helped his cause with a pair of helpers on Tuesday night. Lundqvist ensured the blowout with 35 saves, his 60th career shutout.
Meanwhile, the often-lampooned Oilers, who have gone sans postseason since their Western Conference title in 2006, have gotten off to a great start, currently boasting the most points in the Western Conference with 15 (7-2-1). Despite the torrid start, Edmonton will be looking to stop a mini-skid, having gone winless in their past couple of games. Like the Rangers, they last played on Tuesday night, falling in overtime to the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2. In a game that was billed as a battle between the past two top overall draft picks Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, it was Anton Lander and Darnell Nurse who tallied the Edmonton goals. Previously, they were shutout by the Ottawa Senators 2-0 on Sunday night.
This will be the first of a couple of meetings this season between the Rangers and Oilers, both taking place in November. The two teams split their pair last season, each team winning on their home ice, the last one coming on December 16 at MSG, a 4-2 Rangers win. Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash scored goals for the Rangers, while Dylan McIlrath added one later for the first goal of his NHL career. Jesper Fast put in an empty netter to put things away in the final minute. Jordan Eberle scored for the Oilers. The two teams will meet again 10 days from now in Edmonton.
This will also be the first time Talbot, who sat out the two meetings last season, will square off against his former team and mentor. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Rangers out of the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Talbot played in 57 games with the Rangers, tallying 33 wins and an even GAA of 2.00. Notably, he took over for an injured Lundqvist during the 2014-15 season, even earning a vote in that season’s Vezina Trophy voting. The Rangers rewarded his efforts with the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award at the end of the season. In the summer of 2015, Talbot was traded to the Oilers in exchange for three draft picks. After struggling in his first season in Edmonton, Talbot has gotten off a great start on the year, starting the first ten games and posting a GAA of 2.14.
This will also be the Rangers’ first meeting with McDavid, who missed the Rangers series last season due to injury.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490