The New York Rangers had some trouble with their Tri-State area opponents last season. They can gain some much needed confidence against one of them heading into the new year, as they complete a preseason home-and-home set with the New Jersey Devils tonight at Prudential Center.
Following tonight’s game, the Rangers will have hit the midway point of their preseason schedule, on which they’ve been perfect in their first couple of games. At 2-0-0, they are the only remaining unbeaten team in the Metropolitan Division.
In the first part of the New Jersey series on Thursday night, Brandon Pirri contributed on each score in a 3-1 Blueshirts victory. After assisting on rookie John Gilmour’s power play goal, Pirri notched a goal of his own later in the first period, giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead. After New Jersey sliced the lead in half in the middle frame, on an unassisted goal by Miles Wood, Gilmour would return the favor and, along with fellow rookie Nicklas Jensen, assist on Pirri’s goal in the final period, another power play tally that gave the Rangers the final margin.
Antti Raanta, who is expected to start in net for the second consecutive exhibition, played the first 33 minutes, stopping the first 15 shots he faced before allowing Wood’s goal on the last. He was then pulled of Mackenzie Skapski, who played the final 27 minutes, stopping all 13 shots he faced. Magnus Hellberg, who started the Rangers preseason premiere on Tuesday, will be the other dressing goalie. Hellberg stopped 12 of 13 shots in the Rangers’ 5-2 win over the Islanders.
Though Pirri, whose 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists) leads the team in the early preseason going, will not dress tonight, Mika Zibanejad will return to the ice for the Rangers, manning the top line. Brought over in the offseason in a trade with Ottawa for Derek Brassard, Zibanejad sat out Thursday’s game but starred in his unofficial Rangers debut against the Islanders, his power play goal helping the Rangers back from an early 1-0 deficit. Zibanejad would later assist on goals by Pirri and Dylan McIlrath, while Chris Kreider provided the game winning goal.
Kreider is expected to sandwich Zibanejad on the night’s top line which will also see the return of JT Miller, the first of the Rangers’ World Cup of Hockey participants to appear in blue. The American-born Miller played for the much-discussed North America squad, teaming up woth the young talent from both the US and Canada. Miller partook in the squad’s final game of the tournament, a 4-3 win over Henrik Lundqvist and Sweden.
Also making their preseason debuts for the Rangers tonight will be Ryan Gropp, the Rangers’ 2015 top pick. In addition Philip McRae, and Michael Paliotta will be in the lineup for the first time this preseason.
Returning to blue line duties are Gilmour and Adam Clendening, both of whom tallied two points each in the Islander game. After spending last season with the Penguins and Oilers, Clendening tallied a pair of assists in the victory.
Following tonight’s game, Joe Souza will have the recap. Stay tuned to blueshirtsnation.com for all the updates!
(EDIT: 10/1/16, 10:30 AM; A previous version of this article erroneously stated that Chris Brown was making his preseason debut. Brown actually made his preseason debut on Tuesday against the Islanders. This mistake has been corrected)