The New York Rangers saw their six-game winning streak end with a thud Wednesday in Chicago, but they will try to earn a split of the two-game road trip when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night. The teams have already met twice, with the Blue Jackets posting a 3-1 win in Columbus on Oct. 13 and New York winning 5-3 at home on Nov. 6.
Artemi Panarin scored in each of the first two meetings against the Rangers, but scoring has been an issue for the Blue Jackets with a combined five goals in the past four games. “It’s not one guy. It’s four or five guys that are struggling offensively,” coach John Tortorella said. “We’ve just got to keep on trying to work out of it and get something good to happen for us.” New York has played the second-fewest road games in the Eastern Conference, falling to 2-4-0 away from home after allowing five third-period goals in a 6-3 setback to the Blackhawks. “We got what we deserved,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We didn’t deserve to win and we didn’t.”
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ABOUT THE RANGERS (9-8-2): Defenseman Brendan Smith, acquired at the trade deadline last season and signed to a four-year, $17.4 million contract in June, will finally return to the lineup Friday after being a healthy scratch for six straight games. “Brendan’s handled this as a pro, stayed focused, worked hard,“ Vigneault said. ”He wasn’t happy, there’s no doubt.” Henrik Lundqvist, who won all six games during the winning streak before he was yanked in Wednesday’s loss, will make his eighth consecutive start.
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (11-7-1): Columbus halted a four-game skid with back-to-back 2-1 victories -- both beyond regulation -- on the back of Sergei Bobrovsky, who made a spectacular highlight-reel save in each contest. “Right now, the Columbus Blue Jackets own the best save of the year in the highlights, and the second best save of the year,” Tortorella said of the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Forward Lukas Sedlak, expected to be out six weeks, practiced Thursday 3 1/2 weeks after injuring his ankle.
1. Columbus is 0-for-15 on the power play over the last six games.
2. Former Blue Jackets F Rick Nash has four goals in the past three games for New York.
3. F Zac Dalpe was placed on waivers Thursday by Columbus.
PREDICTION: Blue Jackets 3, Rangers 2