There are certain things you can bet on: death, taxes, and the Blue Jackets being involved in weird (read: entertaining) games against the New York Rangers.
|NEW YORK RANGERS|
28–23–4 (60 points)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7 P.M. – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 14
FOX SPORTS OHIO
FOX SPORTS GO
While the list is too long to name them all, the last meeting between the two teams is sufficient evidence. Matiss Kivlenieks, making his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden, just cooling off a desperate Rangers team and letting Oliver Bjorkstrand take center stage in the third period. Bjorkstrand, in his first game back from injury, scored twice – including the game-winning goal with 26.5 seconds left in regulation – to stun the Rangers.
It wasn't the 7-5 or 6-4 thriller we've come upon before with the Blue Jackets and Rangers, but it was damn good.
Now that they're set for another meeting, this time at Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets and Rangers are going in different directions. The Rangers are sporting a three-goaltender model to give youngsters Igor Shesterkin (the team's new No. 1) and Alexandar Georgiev ample playing time while veteran Henrik Lundqvist (remember him?) has basically been a spectator. Lundqvist recently went two weeks between starts, which is stunning to consider given his resume.
The Rangers will be in Columbus on the second night of a back-to-back having played last night in Minnesota, where Georgiev made the start. Might Lundqvist see the net tonight at Nationwide Arena? Shesterkin was scratched from last night's game due to an ankle problem.
For the Blue Jackets, well, they have their own set of concerns. Seth Jones will miss the rest of the regular season with an ankle injury (and subsequent surgery) suffered last weekend vs. Colorado, and Cam Atkinson recently tweaked his ankle and will miss the next 2-3 weeks. A team needing offense can ill afford to lose two of its more talented players.
Here's a look at tonight's projected lines for the Blue Jackets:
- Watch the speed. The Rangers are a young, quick, dynamic team and they love to overwhelm opponents with their speed when given the opportunity. This makes the Blue Jackets' neutral zone commitment (when John Tortorella talks about being "above the puck") quite important, as they can force the Rangers to chip and chase and not build speed between the blue lines.
- Power it up. The Blue Jackets' power play has been a train wreck lately. It's a laborious effort just to establish themselves in the attacking zone. You aren't going to win consistently without strong special teams and the Blue Jackets need to get this unit back on track.
- Don't look back. This is the busiest stretch of the Blue Jackets' schedule and it's also the most important. The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and while Columbus has obvious needs, it won't matter much if they aren't in the conversation come Feb. 24.