The New York Rangers’ dismal start to the season rapidly is fading away in the rear-view mirror as they motor ahead on the NHL’s longest active winning streak. The Rangers aim to extend that run to seven straight games on Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks as they vie for their fifth consecutive victory at the United Center.
Captain Ryan McDonagh extended his assist streak to four games on Saturday after setting up his sixth goal in that stretch in a 4-2 victory over Edmonton. The 28-year-old also had an assist in his last visit to the Windy City, setting up fellow defenseman Nick Holden’s goal 55 seconds into overtime in a 1-0 victory over the Blackhawks on Dec. 9. While New York has turned its season around by registering at least three goals in 10 of its last 12 games (8-2-2), Chicago owns just a 4-7-1 mark in that stretch to find itself losing ground in the Central Division. The Blackhawks have awoken from an offensive slumber with nine goals in their last two contests after mustering just 19 in their previous 10.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN
ABOUT THE RANGERS (9-7-2): Special teams have been key over the last six games for New York, which is 8-for-19 on the power play and 13-for-14 on the penalty kill. “Any skill player will tell you when you’re having success on the power play, it will drive the rest of your game,” said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who has collected a point on four of the eight power-play goals. “The ability to just get touches on the puck, positive touches, making passes and having a little time and space out there, it allows you to slow the game down in your mind.” Mika Zibanejad, who already has a career-high five power-play goals in 18 games, has recorded 12 of his team-leading 18 points in his last nine contests.
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (8-8-2): Alex DeBrincat has adjusted to getting his feet wet by collecting seven points (five goals, two assists) in his last seven games, including three goals and an assist in his last two. “Well, we’ve been encouraged every single day we’ve seen him this year,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the 19-year-old Michigan native. “... The fact he’s starting to score a little bit more gives us an added sniper. But he does a lot of good things, not just scoring. He complements your team game.” Corey Crawford endured a night he’d like to forget in Sunday’s 7-5 setback to New Jersey, and will look to erase that memory on Wednesday when he faces the Rangers for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
1. New York RW Michael Grabner, who is riding a four-game point streak (four goals, one assist), has scored seven goals, set up another and is a plus-8 in his last eight contests.
2. Chicago LW Brandon Saad leads the team with seven goals, but has just one in his last 12 games.
3. Rangers LW Rick Nash, who has recorded four goals and one assist in his last four games overall, has registered more assists (27) and points (52) versus the Blackhawks than against any other NHL opponent in his career.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 3, Rangers 2