After coming out of the holiday break with a disappointing 4-0 defeat to the Washington Capitals, the Rangers are in Florida for a game against the Lightning (7:00 P.M. on MSG2)

RangersNHL RankingsLightning
12thNHL Standing Rank11th 
16th GF/PG3rd

Previous Game

The Rangers were defeated by the Washington Capitals by a score of 4-0. It was one of those games for the Blueshirts where if something could go wrong – it went wrong. Whether it be for Washington accidentally scoring on their second goal, New York missing the net almost as often has hitting the net, not getting the calls from officials – you name it. Igor Shesterkin kept the Rangers in the game as long as he could but ultimately finish with 26 saves on 29 shots including a potential save of the year candidate.

               “We were garbage tonight,” said head coach Gerard Gallant.

Gallant tried a coaches challenged which failed as the Capitals went up 2-0 putting Gallant at two for three for challenges this season.

“I mean, he went in the crease,” Gallant said. “We didn’t put him in the crease, he made contact (with Shesterkin), it wasn’t much contact, but there was enough contact for me.” The goaltender interference rule is currently in a gray area and unfortunately for the Rangers and Gallant – the call just didn’t go there way.

Rangers vs Lightning

New York will need to bring their A+ game as they take on the Tampa Bay lightning – the reigning three-time defending Eastern Conference Final champion. Following the defeat in Washington, Gallant appears to be making more lineup changes after losing two of their past three games. Lately, the 59-year-old has been making more in-game line changes and changes in practice following a defeat. The biggest surprise comes with Alexis Lafreniere practicing on the fourth line.

               “I want him to be better,” Gallant said. “Laffy has gotten some chances to play with good people and he’s played well at times, but it’s inconsistent….” The former first overall pick rotated with Sammy Blais at practice skating with Jonny Brodzinski and Jimmy Vesey.

               [I’m] not saying he’s going to be there tomorrow,” Gallant continued. “I don’t know where he’s going to be tomorrow. Sometimes is a wakeup call for the kids.”

               Kaapo Kakko skated on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Kakko has seven points in his last nine games including five goals. Kakko will get a big opportunity to make an impression against the Lightning.

Julien Gauthier will move up in the lineup and join Filip Chytil and Vitaly Kravtsov on the third line. Gauthier has been one of the more noticeable Rangers in the past two games. The 25-year-old had two points against the Islanders and had two of the best Rangers chances against Washington. Gauthier has had a hard time staying the Blueshirts lineup, but he has earned an opportunity to move up.

The Lightning will be playing the second leg of a back-to-back as they are coming off a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday. Tampa Bay didn’t have to travel, but they may have some heavier legs as the game moves along.

Andrei Vasilevskiy played on Wednesday which might signal that the Blueshirts will see backup netminder Brian Elliott. While Elliott has a record of 7-2-0, his save percentage sits at just .894.

The Rangers won the first meeting between the two teams on opening night by the score of 3-1. Zibanejad had two goals in the game as he got off to a quick start. Thursday night’s game will be the only will play in Tampa Bay during the regular season.

               Leading the Lightning in points is Nikita Kucherov with 50 including 21 of those being on the power-play. However, Kucherov is just a plus one on the season which does mean that while he can put up points, the Rangers can also put-up points with him on the ice.

What to Watch For

               It will be interesting to see how Gallant chooses to handle the Lightning’s bottom six. Tampa Bay has a bunch of players that are big, play mean, and throw the body. Guys such as Pat Maroon who will stand up for any teammate or Corey Perry who will be in front of the net. You have to wonder if Barclay Goodrow could be matched up against some of his former teammates despite practicing on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck. Don’t be surprised if Gallant makes an in-game adjustment just like he did against the Islanders prior to the break to matchup with their bottom-six.

Projected Lineup










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