The joke usually goes that the Columbus Blue Jackets, filled with former Blueshirts, are unofficially known as Rangers Midwest.
With Jaromir Jagr, Keith Yandle, and Dylan McIlrath coming to Madison Square Garden on Sunday, the Florida Panthers could very well be Rangers Southeast, as they return to MSG to take on the modern day Rangers for a Sunday night tilt (7:00, MSG)
The Rangers (13-5-0) are coming home from a four game road trip, one that ended with a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the aforementioned Blue Jackets, the lone blemish on a trip where they swept the Western Canada trio. Michael Grabner, scoring his team-high 11th goal of the year, and Mika Zibanejad provided the scoring, but the Rangers were unable to overcome a goal by Matt Calvert, who had left the game to receive 36 stitches after taking a Nick Holden slap shot to the face.
Florida, meanwhile, will be playing the second half of a weekend back-to-back, topping the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night by a 4-1 final on the road. Roberto Luongo made 39 saves, while Jagr led the way with a pair of assists and his second goal of the season, which opened the scoring.
This will be the first of three meetings between the Rangers and Panthers this season, and the first of two held at Madison Square Garden. Last season, the Rangers took two of three matches from the Panthers, including the last, a 4-2 win on March 21. Rick Nash provided the game winning goal, while Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves. The teams will complete their set with a pair in March.
Jagr, a Rangers from 2004-08, makes his return to the Garden. Jagr holds the Rangers’ single season record for goals, assists and points, tallying 54 and 69 respectively for 123 total points. This will also be the first time defensemen Yandle and McIlrath also make their first MSG visits since their departures. Yandle, who was a Rangers over the previous two seasons, has tallied eight assists over 17 games thus far, while McIlrath, the Rangers’ 2010 first-round pick who was traded to Florida on November 8, saw his first action as a Panther during their Thursday game against Toronto. He was a healthy scratch for last night’s game.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490