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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Rangers preview: Familiar faces

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Family reunion tonight in Tampa.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Rangers Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers at Lightning: Game 32

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, MSG+

Opponent SBNation Site: Blueshirt Banter

Preview:

The New York Rangers visit Tampa to face the Lightning tonight, and it will be a bit like a family reunion. Both teams feature multiple players who were once prominent members of the other organization.

The first big trade involving current roster players occurred at the 2014 trade deadline when the Lightning traded Marty St. Louis to the Rangers in exchange for Ryan Callahan and multiple draft picks. St. Louis has since retired and has now had his number retired in Tampa and been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Callahan will play tonight, as will Anthony Cirelli, who was acquired via that trade. Both the Lightning and Rangers eventually traded all of the draft picks involved in that trade before using them, but one of the picks the Lightning acquired in those trades eventually became Cirelli.

The next big trade between the teams came last year when the Lightning traded multiple draft picks, Libor Hajek, Brett Howden, and Vlad Namestnikov, to the Rangers for Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller. All of the players in that deal, aside from Hajek, will be on the ice tonight.

Howden, once a prime prospect in Tampa’s system, looks like a lock to be a top-six center for the Rangers for the forseeable future. Namestnikov’s stock has dropped following the trade. Playing with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov last year, he was on his way to a career year. But he hasn’t been able to replicate that success in New York.

McDonagh and Miller have both been key contributors in Tampa. McDonagh is playing the second most minutes behind Victor Hedman and taking the toughest matchups. So far this season, he’s been great after starting slowly last year following the trade. Miller has bounced around the lineup and is currently performing well on the third line.

In addition to the trades with one another, each team has also acquired players from the other team in other way. The Lightning signed Dan Girardi after the Rangers bought out his contract before last season. The much-maligned defender has been better in Tampa than most (including me) expected. He’s playing mostly with Hedman this year and has been putting up solid numbers after a decent year last year.

The Rangers acquired another former Lightning prospect, Anthony DeAngelo, from the Arizona Coyotes in a trade prior to last season. DeAngelo has a history of poor behavior on the ice including the use of homophobic slurs and abusing officials. The Rangers are getting value out of him so far this season despite his still mostly bad defensive play. But whether that continues long term remains to be seen.

This season, the Rangers are playing better than expected. They were considered a lottery team prior to the season but currently sit in the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Part of that is due to the emergence of Howden, and another part is due to Henrik Lundqvist still being too good to allow a team to go fully in the tank. Their most recent game was a 5-4 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday. That snapped a three-game losing streak.

The Lightning have won nine of their last ten including six in a row with the most recent being a 7-1 drubbing of the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. They are still without starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and second-pairing defender Anton Stralman, who also happens to be a former Ranger.

Tonight will be a chance for fans on both sides to catch up with some former favorite players. And possibly to wonder what might have been in a world where these trades didn’t happen.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Yanni Gourde

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - J.T. Miller

Mathieu Joseph - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Goaltenders

Louis Domingue

Eddie Pasquale

New York Rangers

Forward Lines

Chrie Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Kevin Hayes

Jimmy Vesey - Ryan Strome - Filip Chytil

Vlad Namestnikov - Brett Howden - Jesper Fast

Matt Beleskey - Lias Andersson - Steven Fogarty

Defense Pairings

Marc Staal - Neal Pionk

Brady Skjei - Anthony DeAngelo

Fredrik Claesson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Goalies

Henrik Lundqvist

Alexandar Georgiev