Preview: Wild at Rangers
NEW YORK -- The Minnesota Wild are going for their third straight victory but will encounter some unfamiliar names wearing sweaters for the New York Rangers.
The Wild will discover who is sitting out for the Rangers on Friday night when they attempt to complete a three-game road sweep of the NHL's New York-area teams at Madison Square Garden.
Minnesota has opened its trip by getting a pair of two-goal wins thanks to two flurries in the second period. The Wild scored three times in a span 4:12 in the middle period in Monday's 5-3 victory over the New York Islanders and followed it up three more tallies in a span of 5:36 on Thursday, when they rallied from a two-goal deficit and posted a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
"I see some enthusiasm like when we're down tonight and the previous game," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters. "It wasn't like 'oh here we go again', let's go out and get after them and once we got the one same as (against the Islanders), we got two and three right quickly. The enthusiasm and energy was there. It's a great thing if you can keep it going."
Chris Stewart wound up with the game-winning goal in his third game after being a healthy scratch in seven of the previous nine contests. Defenseman Mike Reilly netted the tying goal after sitting the previous four contests and Joel Eriksson Ek scored for the second straight game after going 50 games without a goal.
"We got a lot of guys playing the same way, so there's no reason sometimes that one guy sits out for another guy because you're a team of 22," Boudreau told reporters of his lineup changes. "We play it as a team of 22 right now. That's what happens."
Backup Alex Stalock delivered a sterling 38-save performance, but Devan Dubnyk will start Friday. Dubnyk made 32 saves in Minnesota's 3-2 home victory over the New York Rangers on Feb. 13 and is 9-2-3 in his last 14 starts since allowing six goals at Colorado on Jan. 6.
John Gilmour and Kevin Hayes scored power-play goals for the Rangers in the first meeting at Minnesota on Feb. 13. They are among two players who will suit up for the Rangers, but Rick Nash and Michael Grabner will not after sitting out Thursday's 3-1 loss at Montreal.
Grabner was dealt to New Jersey after Thursday's 3-1 loss while Nash is expected to be moved before Monday after spending the last 5 1/2 seasons with the Rangers.
Nash, who has 18 goals and 28 points, sat as a precaution to avoid injury before any possible trade. His next point will be his 800th but it likely will be for another team.
"That's the way it is," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told reporters. "At the end of the day you got to focus on what you need to do to go out on the ice and play a good game and that's what 20 skaters that we have in every night that's what they need to focus on."
The Rangers played Thursday with three rookie defensemen (Gilmour, Rob O'Gara and Neil Pionk) for the first time in more than eight years and will likely do so again Friday. That trio is among 17 players to play their first game with the Rangers this season.
New York enters Friday with a five-game losing streak and two home games before the trade deadline. The Rangers dealt defenseman Nick Holden on Wednesday and others besides Nash and Grabner could be dealt, including Ryan McDonagh, who has not played since a 6-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Feb. 7.
Beside the five-game losing streak, the Rangers are 3-12 in their last 15 games since consecutive wins over Philadelphia and Buffalo on Jan 16-18. The Rangers are also 2-5 in seven games since announcing to season ticket holders they were going to start rebuilding the team.
One player who will suit up is Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist owns a career-worst 2.89 goals-against average after allowing 12 goals in his last two appearances last weekend against Ottawa and Philadelphia. He has lost four straight regulation games and is 2-8-1 with a 4.24 GAA and a .881 save percentage in his last 10 games.
The Rangers are 6-4 in the last 10 meetings with Minnesota.