GDT: Rangers @ Coyotes - THU, DEC 29 @ 11:00pm ET

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GDT: Rangers @ Coyotes - THU, DEC 29 @ 11:00pm ET

Postby Matzel on Thu Dec 29, 2016 7:37 am

Image @ Image

AP wrote:Rangers visit offensively challenged Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The New York Rangers and Arizona Coyotes are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to scoring goals.

The Rangers rank third in the NHL at 3.27 goals per game; the Coyotes rank 29th (second to last) at 2.11 as they prepare to face each other on Thursday at Gila River Arena.

For New York, sustaining that production is critical in an ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division where the top three teams also had the NHL's best three records.

For Arizona, upping its production is critical to instilling a belief system in a young and fragile team whose playoff hopes are dwindling as it approaches the midpoint of the season.

"What we're missing is the finish," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, whose team scored 27 goals in its last 15 games (3-9-3). "There's execution along the way that could be better, like our D could do a better job of getting pucks through (to the net). We're getting a lot of shots blocked, a lot of missed shots. That's not only opportunities missed, but how many rebounds do you get off that?

"With the forwards, everybody checks so tight now that it's the ability to beat people one-on-one or create space rolling off a check, or with the execution of a give-and-go that's harder to cover, or the ability to get the puck off the wall so you can get it toward the net. All of those things like that are a combination of skill, but also the determination to do it."

It's still early to being talking about the postseason, but the Rangers were doing just that ahead of their game with the Coyotes. Center Derek Stepan said much of that urgency is driven by the fact that five Metropolitan teams are sitting among the NHL's top nine in the standings.

"We're in a playoff push. We don't have any time to not be," Stepan, who has a team-high 28 points in 37 games, told reporters in New York. "We need the two points every single time we step on the ice. That's as simple as it is."

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist returned to practice Wednesday after missing Tuesday's game with the flu. While he joins the team on its two-game trip through Arizona and Colorado, coach Alain Vigneault suggested Antti Raanta would start his second straight game Thursday.

"I would say less than 50/50 after watching his energy level on the ice," Vigneault said of Lundqvist's chances. "I need to talk to (goaltending coach Benoit Allaire), I need to talk to our medical guy. This was his first practice in four days. He seemed like he was looking for his legs, his arms, everything else. He was real sick. We'll see how he feels tomorrow and make a decision from there."

Vigneault said right winger Pavel Buchnevich (back) would not join the team in Arizona or Colorado and would remain in New York to skate on his own with the hope that he starts practicing next week. Right winger Rick Nash (groin) did not practice Wednesday but will travel with the team. Center Mika Zibanejad (broken fibula) is out until at last mid-January.

Coyotes goalie Mike Smith took a day off from practice Wednesday but is expected to start in goal.

"He just wants to go on the ice once between games so he'll probably go out (Thursday) morning," Tippett said.

Arizona right winger Ryan White is still nursing a nagging lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. Center Brad Richardson (broken right tibia and fibula) and left winger Max Domi (hand) are out indefinitely.
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