The New York Rangers haven’t had much go right this season, but they’ll look to continue their recent dominance against another team that has seen it all go wrong in 2017-18. The Rangers aim to conclude their season-high six-game homestand on a positive note Thursday as they vie for their eighth straight victory over the winless Arizona Coyotes.
While the Rangers have outscored the Coyotes 30-14 during their seven-game winning streak in the series and have won eight consecutive encounters between the teams at Madison Square Garden, their record of six losses in the last seven overall contests (1-4-2) is what’s pressing on the mind of coach Alain Vigneault. “Everybody here, from management to coaches to players, we’re not happy with our record,” Vigneault told the New York Post. “I could say we’re playing a lot better than our record, but our record is 2-6-2, and that’s not good enough.” Derek Stepan likely can relate to his former team’s troubles, especially considering his current club has dropped seven straight in regulation following a 2-1 overtime loss on Oct. 7 in the opener of a home-and-home series with expansion Vegas. Stepan is making his return to Madison Square Garden after playing seven seasons with the Rangers, although former New York goaltender Antti Raanta will receive the night off as he nurses a lower-body injury.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Arizona, MSG (New York)
ABOUT THE COYOTES (0-8-1): Rookie Clayton Keller increased his point total to six (three goals, three assists) in his last three games after setting up a pair of tallies in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders. Keller leads the team in goals (six) and points (10) while Stepan and Max Domi - whose father Tie played for the Rangers - each have recorded seven points. Former Ranger Anthony Duclair netted a power-play tally on Tuesday for the Coyotes, who are scoring 2.3 goals per contest while yielding a league-worst 4.3 with a penalty kill that has thwarted just 72 percent of its opponents’ opportunities.
ABOUT THE RANGERS (2-6-2): Chris Kreider has been slow out of the blocks this season with just four points (one goal, three assists), but a date with Arizona has been a cure for whatever ails him during his NHL career. The 26-year-old has erupted for six goals and seven points in six career encounters with the Coyotes. Mika Zibanejad, who scored his team-leading sixth goal in Monday’s 4-1 loss to San Jose, recorded four points (one goal, three assists) in his first four career meetings with Arizona before being kept off the scoresheet in his lone encounter last season.
1. New York F Rick Nash will play in his 1,000th NHL game on Thursday while D Marc Staal will skate in the 700th of his career.
2. Rangers RW Mats Zuccarello (minus-11) and Coyotes D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (minus-10) sit at the bottom of the NHL’s list in plus/minus rating.
3. New York G Ondrej Pavelec, who is expected to start Thursday’s tilt, needs to stop just two shots to join Dominik Hasek and Tomas Vokoun as the only Czech-born goaltenders in NHL history to reach 10,000 career saves.
PREDICTION: Rangers 3, Coyotes 2