What a conundrum.
In order to rebuild the Rangers into a Stanley Cup contender, the team is supposed to be selling off several attractive pieces.
Yet, ever since the Blueshirts’ high-command announced it was looking at things long-term rather than short-term, the team has started to win games.
Consecutive victories over the Flames and Jets have the team believing in itself with just two weeks until the NHL’s annual Trade Deadline.
However, the rumors surrounding the team’s deadline plans won’t go away.
And one of the biggest rumors pertains to Ryan McDonagh’s future.
With one season left on his contract, the Rangers don’t have to trade their captain. But his trade value is likely higher now than it will be in a year from now.
And seeing as McDonagh is from St. Paul, Minnesota, it stands to reason the Wild would be interested in bringing him back home.
With all the subplots, it’s easy to forget a hockey game still needs to be played.
But the Blueshirts are hoping to block everything out long enough to secure their third consecutive win.
DEEP ROOTED CONNECTIONS
The Staal Brothers — Marc (Rangers) and Eric (Minnesota) — along with Jordan (Carolina), are the only trio of brothers in the history of Big Four Sports (NHL, NFL, MLB and NBA) who were all selected 12th overall or higher in their respective Drafts.
Eric Staal spent part of one season with the Rangers (2015-16).
Matt Cullen played one season in New York (2006-07).
Steven Kampfer spent part of one season in Minnesota (2011-12).
Mats Zuccarello: The scrappy winger is five goals away from 100 in his NHL career.
Rick Nash: The veteran winger is two points away from 800 in his illustrious NHL career.
J.T. Miller: The skilled former first-round draft pick has always shown tremendous poise with the puck. And his playmaking abilities have him closing in on 100 career assists; he’s two away.
Mika Zibanejad: The Rangers’ top-line center is six goals away from 100 in his NHL career.
PLAYER TO WATCH
WILD: ERIC STAAL. The veteran center is continuing his late-career resurgence in Minnesota. His last several seasons in Carolina saw his points totals decline. A trade to the Rangers did nothing to rejuvenate Staal as he registered just six points in 20 games. In 137 games with Minnesota, Staal has accumulated 115 points. And this season he leads Minnesota in points, with 50.
RANGERS: BRADY SKJEI. With captain Ryan McDonagh sidelined, Skjei has moved up to the top-defense pair. And he has seen his minutes rise from roughly 20 minutes per night to over 26 per night. Therefore, it’s no surprise he also has points in back-to-back games for the first time since November 22nd and 24th. As long as McDonagh remains out expect Skjei’s minutes to stay on the rise.
The hits just keep on coming.
Joining Chris Kreider, Kevin Shattenkirk, Pavel Buchnevich, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh and Ondrej Pavelec on the sidelines is Steven Kampfer.
Late Monday afternoon, the Rangers announced Kampfer will miss the next four-to-six weeks with a fractured hand.
In a corresponding move, the Blueshirts called up defenseman Ryan Sproul from Hartford.
With Sproul in the lineup, the Rangers have three defensemen on their roster that were in the AHL a week ago.
Meanwhile, Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start with Alexandar Georgiev serving as the backup.
WHERE TO WATCH
The game will be broadcast on MSG Networks at 8 pm ET. For in-game coverage check out our Twitter account @NYRBlueBulletin.
The Rangers have won back-to-back games for the first time since January 16th and 18th.
However, they still remain three points out of a playoff spot with the Trade Deadline looming.
And barring an abrupt change in plans, the Blueshirts are looking at a full blown fire sale for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
But, hey, anything is possible.