Florida Panthers at New York Rangers game preview
The New York Rangers are scoring at a prolific pace this season, and could continue to do so against a team they’ve dominated.
Looking to avoid consecutive home losses for the first time this season, New York meets the Florida Panthers on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers (13-5-0) lead the league with 74 goals scored, an average of 4.1 per game. That has them on pace for 357 goals, which would be their first season with at least 300 since 1992-93 and also shatter the franchise record of 321 set in 1991-92.
New York has won 12 of the last 15 overall over Florida, including five straight and seven of eight on home ice. Over the last 15 meetings, the Rangers are 10-0-0 when scoring at least three goals.
Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo is 8-13-2 with one tie and a 2.90 goals-against average in his career against the Rangers. He turned away 40 shots for his third career shutout of New York in the Panthers’ 3-0 win on Jan. 2.
Backup James Reimer has allowed at least three goals in three of five career starts against New York.
The Rangers fell to the lowly Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 8 before embarking on a four-game road trip. After scoring 14 goals in three wins across western Canada, New York fell 4-2 to former coach John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
"We probably didn’t have as much jump, but we’ve got to play high percentage when we’re not clicking on all cylinders," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh told Newsday.
New York is 0-4-0 when scoring fewer than three goals in a game. Only one of those losses has occurred at home, where they have been led by right wings Michael Grabner and Rick Nash.
Grabner, who scored four goals on the recent road trip, has six goals and two assists at MSG this season. With 11 goals, Grabner is on pace for 50, well above his career high of 34.
Six of Nash’s seven goals have come on home ice, and he has six goals in his last five games against the Panthers.
Coach Alain Vigneault told the Rangers’ official website that Henrik Lundqvist would start in goal Sunday.
Lundqvist, who will play in his 700th NHL game, is 9-5-0 with a 2.30 GAA and one shutout in 2016-17. He’s allowed two goals or fewer in six of his seven starts at MSG this season.
Overall, Lundqvist is 22-10-1 with a 1.91 GAA in his career versus the Panthers, and has beaten them in four straight starts and six of his last seven in New York. Also, four of his five career shutouts versus the Panthers have come at MSG.
Rookie Pavel Buchnevich is expected to miss his fourth straight game with back spasms, but Vigneault told the team’s website that the injury to the 21-year-old may be "more than back spasms."
Buchnevich has four goals and four assists in 10 games, and is third on the team in points among rookies behind Brady Skjei (11 assists) and Jimmy Vesey (seven goals, four assists).
Florida (9-8-1) is wrapping up a four-game road trip and comes in having won three of four after defeating the Ottawa Senators 4-1 on Saturday night behind 39 saves from Luongo, who’s 4-0-0 with a 1.47 GAA and .947 save percentage in his last four games.
"All the credit goes to him and we just tried to hold the fort as much as we can, but we’ve got to be better as a team. We gave up too many chances as a (defensive) corps. We’ve got to clean that up going into New York," Panthers defenseman Jason Demers said Saturday.
Jaromir Jagr had a goal and an two assists for the first multi-point game of his 23rd NHL season. Last season, he had 16 such games, helping the Panthers go 13-2-1.
In 39 career games as an opponent at MSG, the 44-year-old Jagr has 15 goals and 24 assists.
"I just want to play every game I can play," Jagr said. "Sometimes, it doesn’t go your way. It’s hard, especially when you’re old. I’m putting in a lot of work and the results aren’t there. That’s the toughest thing. You keep believing. There’s a lot of doubters, but you just have to close your ears and believe what got me 25 years."
Sunday’s contest will be defenseman Keith Yandle’s first game back in New York after his negotiating rights were dealt the Panthers in June. Days later, he signed a six-year contract worth just over $44 million.
Yandle was the Rangers’ top-scoring blueliner with 47 points, including a team-best 42 assists, last season. He has no goals and team-high nine assists for the Panthers in 2016-17.
Aleksandr Barkov, who assisted on both Panthers goals in the first period Saturday, did not play in the third because of an undisclosed injury, according to the Panthers website. His status to play against New York is not yet known.
After scoring a career-high 28 goals last season, Barkov has only two in 18 games and none in the last 16.