The long-anticipated date Rangers fans have circled on the calendar has finally arrived; which means Rangers hockey is back. And there is no better way to open the season than hosting the New York Islanders in the Battle of New York. (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).

RangersEast Division RanksIslanders

               The last time we saw the Blueshirts on the ice was on August 4th  when they were eliminated from the playoff bubble in three games by the Carolina Hurricanes. The last time the Rangers won a game was on March 10th against the Dallas Stars just days before the NHL shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The biggest Rangers news this past offseason was the Rangers buying out the face of the franchise, Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist signed with the Washington Capitals, but ultimately will not play this season to do a heart condition.

               While saying goodbye to Lundqvist was hard, the Blueshirts may have been fortunate to find their next face of the franchise. The Rangers won the draft lottery and moved up to the number one pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and selected the top prize, Alexis Lafreniere. Lafreniere will make his NHL debut against the Islanders on the third line with Filip Chytil and Julien Gauthier.

               “I feel really good,” Lafreniere said. “Obviously, a lot of nerves, but I’m really excited and really looking forward to tomorrow. My first NHL game, that’s something I’ve been dreaming of for a long time.”

               Also making his debut tonight will be the 22nd overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, K’Andre Miller. The soon to be 21-year-old will be paired in the top four with Jacob Trouba after beating out Tony DeAngelo for the spot in camp.

               Continuing the youth movement – last year’s second overall pick, Kaapo Kakko will move up to the second line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome due to the departure of Jesper Fast. Kakko was arguably the Rangers best player in the playoff bubble and has impressed during camp.

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               There were questions of if Mika Zibanejad would be healthy due to him coming out and announcing he had COVID-19. After self-isolating and missing most of camp, Zibanejad is deemed fit and will be in his normal role as the top center with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich.

               With the leaving of Fast and Marc Staal, the Blueshirts had to name two assistant captains with them opting to not name a captain. Wearing the “A” this year will be Zibanejad, Panarin, Trouba, and the longest-tenured Ranger – Kreider.

               “It might not be something that people want to hear, but I think a lot of the time it’s more for the fan base than anyone else,” said Kreider.

               Igor Shesterkin will get the opening night nod for the Rangers in the crease. Shesterkin starting will mean he will be the first goalie since the 2005-2006 season to play on opening night and not be named Lundqvist.

New York Rangers goaltending throne now belongs to Igor Shesterkin

               On the other hand, the Islanders have a highly-regarded Russian prospect netminder named Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin just so happens to be good friends with Shesterkin and he is expected to do battle with his friend for years to come. But Sorokin will have to wait as Islanders head coach Barry Trotz will start his veteran goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

               Also, likely to make his Rangers debut tonight is free agent signing Jack Johnson. Johnson came from Pittsburgh but was an unpopular signing due to a poor season last year which led to some awful analytics.

               “I think he’s got a really bad rap, statistically people want to harp on him but we believe he’s going to be a help for us on that blue line in a lot of ways,” said Rangers head coach David Quinn.

               If Johnson gets the starting nod over Brendan Smith, all six Blueshirt defenders will be American.

Projected Lineup




Lemieux-Howden-Di Giuseppe