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Blackhawks face Rangers in final game of six-game road trip

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It’s an Original Six showdown in New York.

New York Rangers v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

After spending the end of 2017 touring the western half of Canada, the Chicago Blackhawks open the 2018 season on the other side of the continent, heading to the Big Apple to face the New York Rangers.

Three games in western Canada, followed by a one-game trip to the east coast. NHL schedule makers failed geography, didn’t they?

Anyway, the Rangers are coming off of a victory over the Buffalo Sabres in Monday’s Winter Classic. That win has them just six points from the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals but only seven points from the basement-dwelling Philadelphia Flyers in another tightly-contested NHL divisional race. Playing at home is how the Rangers have beefed up their record, going 15-6-3 in games at Madison Square Garden this season. Overall, the Blueshirts rank seventh in both goals scored (3.10 per game) and goals allowed (2.69). New York has the fifth-best PK in the league at 84%, providing a tough test for the Blackhawks’ struggling power play.

In net, it’s the familiar face of Henrik Lundqvist in net, just a few months away from his 36th birthday while playing in his 13th NHL season. His season numbers of a 2.56 goals-against average and .922 save percentage aren’t far off from his career marks of 2.33 and .920, respectively. But having a goalie well into his 30s already play in 33 of a team’s 39 games seems like a bad idea, especially when Ondrej Pavelec’s numbers aren’t all that different (2.61, .924). And they’ve needed those goalies to play well, because the Rangers are ranked 30th in a 31-team league with just a 46.76% share of Corsi events each game. They do sit right behind the Blackhawks, though, with a 19th-ranked expected GF% of 49.76%.

For the Blackhawks, three points earned in his first two career starts was good enough for Jeff Glass to get a third straight nod. While expecting what is basically Chicago’s fourth-string goalie to play as well as Corey Crawford is a fool’s errand, Glass would benefit from improved rebound control and fewer instances of sliding erratically around his crease. In front of him, Jan Rutta and Michal Kempny appear headed for the press box, with Gustav Forsling and Cody Franson teaming up on the third D pairing. Changes hit the forward lines as well, with Vinnie Hinostroza jumping up to the top line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews. With Toews and Saad each scoring in Chicago’s last outing, the hope is that a hellacious forecheck from the speedy Hinostroza can get the puck to Toews and Saad, who (fingers crossed) can continue their scoring ways.

It’s an Original Six battle, but it’s also two points that would help calm some nerves after the Blackhawks woke up to a spot in the Central Division basement. But with games in hand on all the teams ahead of them, that status can be changed quickly, starting with Wednesday night.

Lineups

Blackhawks

Position Players
Position Players
F1 Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Vinnie Hinostroza
F2 Ryan Hartman - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane
F3 Patrick Sharp - David Kampf - Alex DeBrincat
F4 Lance Bouma - Tommy Wingels - John Hayden
D1 Duncan Keith - Jordan Oesterle
D2 Connor Murphy - Brent Seabrook
D3 Gustav Forsling - Cody Franson
Goaltender Jeff Glass

Golden Knights

Position Players
Position Players
F1 Jonathan Marchessault - William Karlsson - Reilly Smith
F2 David Perron - Erik Haula - James Neal
F3 Brendan Leipsic - Cody Eakin - Alex Tuch
F4 Tomas Nosek - Oscar Lindberg - Will Carrier
D1 Brayden McNabb - Nate Schmidt
D2 Shea Theodore - Deryk Engelland
D3 Jon Merrill - Colin Miller
Goaltender Marc Andre-Fleury

How to watch Blackhawks at Rangers

Start time: 7 p.m. CT

Location: Madison Square Garden, New York

TV: NBCSN

Live Stream: NBC Sports Live