Time: 8:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, ABC
Opponent SBNation Site: Blueshirt Banter
The Tampa Bay Lightning return home after a very exhausting road trip to Western Canada. After suffering three consecutive losses, the Bolts managed to end the trip on a major note with wins in Vancouver and Seattle. Tonight’s game against the New York Rangers, however, will be just a quick stop before another four-game road trip.
As you might already know, the Lightning made some huge changes on Friday, sending two active lineup players Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh to Chicago in exchange for forward Brandon Hagel. According to the Lightning’s GM Julien BriseBois, Hagel is expected to join the team tonight and will make his debut for the Lightning in a game against the Rangers.
In Hagel, the Lightning gained a very versatile player, who can be efficient at both even strength and special teams. He was one of the best forecheckers on the Blackhawks and will be a great fit for the Lightning, which is usually very strong at forechecking. Acquiring Hagel, the Lightning also try to recreate their famous Goodrow-Gourde-Coleman third line: while having similar two-way abilities as all those players, Hagel also has a very strong hard-working mentality, which will be a huge factor in playoff games.
Despite having experience of playing at both wings and as a centre, Hagel is expected to play as a winger in his Lightning debut. He can slide into former Raddysh’ spot on the fourth line, but as Hardev fairly noted in his yesterday’s analysis, he can replace Anthony Cirelli in top six, allowing Cirelli to solidify the bottom-six.
As for the Rangers, they’re going into tonight’s matchup after a loss against the New York Islanders. The Rangers are 5-5-0 during their last ten games, but their third place in the Metropolitan Division allows them to feel very comfortable about their playoff spot. Artemi Panarin has been one of the hottest players recently, scoring ten points in his latest five games. Igor Shesterkin, however, is the real team’s MVP: with 21.06 GSAx at 5v5 and .938 save percentage he sovereignly leads the Vezina Trophy race and one of the three big contenders for the Hart Trophy this season.
Unlike the Lightning, who announced yesterday that they’re done at the trade deadline, the Rangers are still expected to make some moves before Monday. They recently acquired Frank Vatrano from the Florida Panthers and have been involved in many trade deadline rumours, showing interest in many players, including Claude Giroux, Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm and others.
The Rangers have already clinched a season-series against the Lightning: they’d beaten the Bolts in a shootout on the New Year’s eve at Amalie Arena and then defeated them again two days later 4-0 at the Madison Square Garden in New York. Tonight the Lightning will look for their first win against the Rangers this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Anthony Cirelli
Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Mathieu Joseph - Ross Colton - Corey Perry
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Brandon Hagel
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Zach Bogosian
Mikhail Sergachev - Erik Cernak
New York Rangers Lines
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Alexis Lafreniere
Artemi Panarin - Ryan Strome - Frank Vatrano
Barclay Goodrow - Filip Chytil - Dryden Hunt
Greg McKegg - Jonny Brodzinski - Ryan Reaves
Ryan Lindgren - Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller - Jacob Trouba
Patrik Nemeth - Braden Schneider