The Columbus Blue Jackets are going for their ninth-consecutive victory Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, as they complete the back-end of a back-to-back with the New York Rangers. As Tuesday's matchup culminates with the regular-season finale between the clubs, it’s a tale of two seasons heading in opposite directions.
Stay the Course
Winners of eight straight, and coming off their 5-4 overtime win Monday against the Bruins, the Jackets continue to pick up steam heading into the playoffs. The Rangers waived the white flag at the trade deadline, selling looming free agents and assorted talent as they undergo a transformation of sorts for the future. They last played Saturday, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blue, and are 5-2-2 since the trade deadline.
Columbus has taken two of the previous three meetings but lost their last game in New York back in November, surrendering four third-period goals and three on the power play.
Who to Watch
Mats Zuccarello leads the Blue Shirts with 49 points and 34 assists. After a stretch of five games without a point, he has responded with six points (five goals, one assist) in five of the last seven games. Mika Zibanejad leads New York with 24 goals and has four over his last two games, potting two apiece against the Penguins and Blues. He had a three-assist game prior to those games against the Hurricanes. Over the last eight games, he has 11 points (seven goals, four assists).
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (25-23-6, 2.92 GAA, .916 SV%) has just one win since March 2 but has only appeared in four games this month, and not since the 10th. Alexander Georgiev (3-2-1, 2.94, .922), potentially the Rangers’ future in goal for after Lundqvist, has seen the bulk of playing time in recent games and had a three-game win streak snapped last time out.
This being the final of 17 back-to-backs for the Jackets, and with Joonas Korpisalo in goal Monday, expect Sergei Bobrovsky (32-21-5, 2.40, .921) in net against the Rangers. Columbus is 7-8-1 in the latter part of the back-to-backs.
Feed Them the Puck
Artemi Panarin leads Columbus in points (64), goals (22), assists (42), and has 18 points in 13 of the last 15 games (seven goals, 11 assists). Panarin has nine points (seven goals, two assists) in his career versus Lundqvist. Cam Atkinson, fresh off Monday’s game-winning goal, has also carried a portion of the offense with 13 points (seven goals, six assists) since Feb. 24, a stretch of 12 games. He has been held without a point in just three of those games. Boone Jenner is on a career-best six-game point streak and has goals in each of the last four games, and five of six.
Seth Jones, who is on the trip, has missed each of the last two games and is questionable for Tuesday’s game. Helping make up the slack defensively, Ryan Murray has also been a difference offensively, with two primary assists on goals against Boston.
|Artemi Panarin||Pierre-Luc Dubois||Cam Atkinson|
|Sonny Milano||Nick Foligno||Oliver Bjorkstrand|
|Sonny Milano||Alexander Wennberg||Thomas Vanek|
|Matt Calvert||Mark Letestu||Brandon Dubinsky|
|Zach Werenski||Seth Jones *Questionable|
|Jack Johnson||Markus Nutivaara|
|Ian Cole||David Savard|
|Chris Kreider||Mika Zibanejad||Jesper Fast|
|Ryan Spooner||Kevin Hayes||Mats Zuccarello|
|Jimmy Vesey||Vladislav Namestnikov||Pavel Buchnevich|
|Cody McLeod||David Desharnais||Paul Carey|
|Brady Skjei||John Gilmour|
|Marc Stall||Neal Pionk|
|Rob O'Gara||Ryan Sproul|