Game 16: NYR-DET, Zucc out with injury, Howden back in lineup
The Rangers return to action after two days off looking for their fifth straight win Friday in Detroit. After the contest against the Red Wings, the Blueshirts travel to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets on Saturday. One regular will miss the games with an injury while a second returns to the lineup after he was sidelined Tuesday.
Mats Zuccarello will miss the game with a groin injury but New York welcomes back Brett Howden from his head/jaw injury. With Zucc out, Pavel Buchnevich slides up to the top line while Ryan Spooner, who is in danger of being a healthy scratch himself at some point, gets a look on the second line. Jesper Fast didn’t practice Thursday due to a maintenance day, but he is expected to play and should be on the third line again. Cody McLeod, who filled in for Fast on Thursday, likely is the healthy scratch. Filip Chytil slides over to wing alongside Lias Andersson with that duo joined by Vinni Lettieri. Boo Nieves practiced with the team Thursday, then was sent down to Hartford, where he should see solid minutes.
I am looking forward to saying Chytil and Andersson as a duo, but if moving Chytil to wing, why not put him in the top-six and have Spooner on the fourth line? When Zucc returns, Buch should slide back down to the second line, putting Spooner or Lettieri at risk of being scratched. In addition, I wouldn’t be shocked if Steven Fogarty gets a call up and shot on the fourth line. Andersson looks like he should remain with the parent club, though playing on the bottom trio was the rationale for sending him down to Hartford to start the season. So it will be interesting to see how management explains this.
With Adam McQuaid week-to-week and Fredrik Claesson almost but not ready for game action, the starting six blueliners remains the same. ADA deserves to remain in the lineup, so I would be surprised if he comes out for Claesson. For all the hate given to Marc Staal, he actually hasn’t played that badly, advanced metrics be damned. No matter what he does, unless he was the second coming of a combination of Bobby Orr and Scott Stevens, Staal still would be the fanbase’s whipping boy. Of the six, Brendan Smith or Kevin Shattenkirk likely has played the worst, but unsure if David Quinn inserts Claesson for one of those two, unless a glaring mistake or error occurs Friday or Saturday.
Henrik Lundqvist gets the nod Friday. I would have gone with Alexandar Georgiev and played Lundqvist on Saturday against Columbus. But Quinn is riding the hot goalie against Detroit. Hank has played 13 of the first 16 games, so Quinn has to manage his usage wisely to avoid burning Lundqvist out. He has been aided by some early days off, but Georgiev should get the nod Saturday.
I will do my best to get a blog up Saturday night after the Sabbath but likely will have a recap blog Sunday after both games.