The Rangers are back in action for the second half of a back-to-back when they host a non-divisional opponent for the first time since playing the Colorado Avalanche in March 2020 (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).

RangersNHL RankingsStars
9thNHL Standing RankN/A

Previous Game

               Wednesday night’s game had a lot of anticipation and a lot of hype for many different reasons. Over the past couple of seasons, there has been a reoccurring theme of the Rangers putting up a dud performance in what feels like a big game and once again it happened. The Blueshirts were defeated 5-1 and were outplayed for 50 minutes. Chris Kreider got the only goal on the power-play after the game was out of reach. The Rangers came out fast with a lot of pace and energy and created many good scoring chances despite going down 1-0 just five minutes into the game. Washington used a 24-seconds stretch in the middle of the second period to ice the game as the Rangers couldn’t recover.

               “I was happy as hell with the way we played the first half,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “We contained them. You come into this building, they’ve got 6 or 7 shots after 33 minutes, so I was pretty happy with the way the game was going. Their goalie made 3 or 4 great saves in the first.”

               There are a lot of fingers pointing the blame after last night’s defeat in all sorts of directions. Some fans felt that the lack of scoring depth in terms of Pavel Buchnevich (traded) and Vitaly Kravtsov (sent down) not being on the team anymore was to blame. Others felt it was the depth and that there was too much grit. And even some fans were blaming goaltender Alex Georgiev who made the surprise start.

               The Rangers didn’t lose the game because of the scoring depth, or the grit, or even the goaltending. The Blueshirts were defeated in this game because no one played well after going behind. There is an issue when you hear Charles Barkley’s name on the broadcast more than Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin’s names. Barkley is a retired basketball player who served as a studio host for TNT’s debut. Zibanejad and Panarin are set to make over 20 million combined next year and they are the team’s most dynamic offensive players. They also combined for a grand total of zero shots. The penalty kill went just 3-6 after being a top-ten penalty kill in the league last season.

               Did any singular player look good last night? Maybe average at best. The player who stood out the most for the Blueshirts was Sammy Blais. Blais was making his presence felt at every opportunity that presented itself. He was creating offense and keeping offensive possessions alive. But even he took six penalty minutes alone. At the end of the day, let’s chalk it up to one bad game and not overreact just yet. After all, the New York Rangers were not going to go 82-0.

Opponent: Dallas Stars

                Thursday night, the Rangers will host the Dallas Stars in the home opener. It’s been a long time since the Rangers played someone outside of their division but that run will finally come to an end. Another run coming to an end will make Dallas fans very happy. Their top line of consisting of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alex Radulov are all healthy and will play together for the first time since game six of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final that took place on September 28th, 2020.

               Dallas’s depth will be not as strong as Jason Robertson and Blake Comeau will both miss the game with upper-body injuries. Both are considered day-to-day but won’t get the chance of playing on Broadway this season. But they did add Ryan Suter who was bought out by Minnesota and he is expected to be a big-time player for the Stars. Suter will eat a lot of minutes against the Rangers top-six tonight as he partners with Swedish defenseman John Klingberg.

               Dallas has many different quality goalie options and the best depth in the league when healthy. Ben Bishop was just placed on the long-term injured reserved and has not played since he had knee surgery last October. Jake Oettinger was drafted in the first round and he posted very respectable numbers in the NHL last season with a .911 save percentage and a 2.36 goals-against average. But despite being an NHL-caliber goaltender, he was sent down to the AHL because he is waiver exempt. Veteran netminder Anton Khudobin was the man when the Stars went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2020. And yet despite having three solid options when healthy – none of the three will get the start in goal at Madison Square Garden as head coach Rick Bowness will open the season with free agent signing Braden Holtby. Holtby signing in Dallas was surprising especially after having back-to-back seasons with a subpar .900 save percentage. Nevertheless, Dallas will give the 32-year-old the first chance in the net as they appear they will take a hot-hand approach this season.


               The Rangers will need to quickly put together last night’s performance behind them as they get set to face off against Dallas. The last time these two teams played was in March 2020 and it was New York’s second to last game before COVID-19 shutdown the NHL. The Rangers won the game 4-2 including two points by Mika Zibanejad who was on a tear prior to the shutdown. Zibanejad will be looking for a big bounce-back game as he was quiet to open the season. The 29-year-old started off last season very slowly and will not want a repeat.

               While it is not officially confirmed, it appears that Nils Lundkvist may be given the opportunity to make his NHL debut tonight on the third defensive pair. Lundkvist was a first-round pick in the 2018 draft that was acquired in the Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller trade to Tampa Bay and Lundkvist has developed handsomely. He has a very high ceiling and can be a very impactful two-way defenseman for years to come. Lundkvist has a cannon for a shot and he will challenge Trouba to quarterback the second power-play unit. The 21-year-old put up back-to-back 30-point seasons and he tallied 14 goals in the 52 games he played in. At 5’10, he has excellent puck skills and is a very mobile player.

Igor Shesterkin will make his season debut as he was saved last night for the home opener. Shesterkin received a new four-year contract this offseason that is worth 5.666 million per year. With being given the keys to the kingdom, the Rangers will hope Shesterkin can take the ball and run with it as the team’s starter for the rest of his career.

Matt’s What to Watch For:

               My what to watch for moment tonight is the overall response of the Rangers after getting embarrassed on national television. Particularly, how will the Rangers come out in the first period in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden, and can they jump out to an early lead? Last year, the Rangers were destroyed in the opener of the season which was dubbed as an “alarming” defeat to the New York Islanders. Then head coach David Quinn was able to flip the script the next game against the very same team and was able to shut them out. Can Gallant rally the troops and turn all the negative headlines into some positive ones?

Projected Lineup: