For the last several seasons, the New York Rangers were usually comfortably in a playoff position. Backstopped by a world class goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, the Blueshirts find themselves in a tough position this season: currently sitting two points out of a Wild Card position, with two teams to leap frog and four others within three points of one another.
The Dallas Stars aren’t in too different of a position themselves — except they’re precariously perched in a playoff position.
Dallas is three points out of third in the Central Division and three points ahead of the second Wild Card team thanks to a resounding 6-1 win over the Minnesota Wild (the current holder of said position). That win has given the Stars a bit of a cushion on the four teams behind them in the standings that are separated by only a single point.
But it is the slimmest of margins, that lead. With one or two more games played on the season as some of those teams, the Stars will need to continue to find points to keep themselves from sinking back into the muck for the Wild Card positions.
It’s a narrative that has been part of the preview of each matchup for a while now. That’s due in large part to the insane Central Division this season, in which all but the Chicago Blackhawks hold insane records in their last 10 games: 8-1-1, 6-2-2, and 6-3-1 among the other six teams in the division. (For fun, the Blackhawks are 3-5-2 in their last 10, the only Central team with a losing record in that stretch and a big part of why they are last in the division and find themselves five points out of a playoff position today.)
Both the Rangers and the Stars will be desperate for two points tonight, as the cross-conference matchup presents both teams with the opportunity to gain points outside of their divisions.
Dallas Stars Lineup
The Stars aren’t likely to make too many changes to their lineup after a 6-1 rout of the Wild at home Saturday night. On the good news front, starting goaltender Ben Bishop will return to the net after missing the last game due to a head injury sustained from being hit with a puck on the bench during the Stars’ road game in Arizona on Thursday night. Forward Martin Hanzal is listed as a game-time decision, and defenseman Marc Methot has returned to practice and could be available later this week.
Lines should be similar to these used last game, outside of a potential insertion of Hanzal to the lineup. We’ll update after morning skate if there’s any news on how the lines might change if he does play tonight.
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Stephen Johns - Julius Honka
New York Rangers Lineup
The Rangers are coming off of the other side of a rout, losing 5-2 to the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. The last time the Rangers played the Stars, it was a low-scoring affair in which the Stars won 2-1 in a shootout. With the Stars offensive outbursts interspersed with games in which they struggle to score even a single goal, there’s no real telling how the last of their two meetings with the Rangers could go tonight.
When the Rangers are on their game, they’ve been stingy on goals allowed. However, their last five games have not been kind in that regard. They’ve allowed 4, 6, 5, 4, and 5 goals against, with only one win in that time frame.
The Rangers’ expected lineup should look something like this:
Jimmy Vesey - Mika Zibanejad - Rick Nash
Michael Grabner - Kevin Hayes - Mats Zuccarello
J.T. Miller - Peter Holland - Jesper Fast
Cody McLeod - David Desharnais - Paul Carey
Ryan McDonagh - Nick Holden
Brady Skjei - Marc Staal
Brendan Smith - Tony DeAngelo