The New York Rangers have played their way into the outer fringes of the postseason picture in the Eastern Conference, while the Chicago Blackhawks appear to be playing their way out of the West.
The Original Six rivals look to improve their standing at the other’s expense on Wednesday when they meet in Chicago.
The Rangers had won four in a row and 11 of their previous 16 games before dropping a 3-1 decision to Boston on Sunday.
“We put ourselves in a position with a chance to win the game,” New York coach David Quinn said, “so it’s disappointing more than anything. I don’t think deflating. I think we’re going to move past it and get ready to go to Chicago.”
The Rangers, who have won five in a row on the road, entertain several positives heading into the opener of their two-game trek.
Mika Zibanejad has scored a goal in seven of his last 10 contests, with Sunday’s tally in the third period extending his point streak to four games (three goals, two assists).
Artemi Panarin, who leads the team in goals (29), assists (49) and points (78), set up a goal for the fourth straight contest and enters Wednesday’s tilt against his former team with a six-game point streak (two goals, five assists).
The elephant in the room for the Rangers, however, is the status of Chris Kreider. Contract talks are ongoing between the team and the pending free-agent forward’s representation, but Kreider is also an attractive commodity ahead of Monday’s trade deadline.
Kreider’s recent play likely is driving up the price on both ends, as the 28-year-old has recorded 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in his last 17 games.
“(The uncertain future) is not affecting my focus or my play,” Kreider told the New York Post. “It has not been a distraction. That’s why I have an agent (Matt Keator).”
Wednesday’s game features a battle of brothers. New York’s Ryan Strome carries a five-game point streak (two goals, four assists) into the tilt versus Dylan Strome, who has just one assist in seven contests this month for Chicago.
Like Dylan Strome, the Blackhawks haven’t fared well of late. Chicago has dropped six of its last seven (1-4-2) after concluding a five-game road trip with a 3-2 setback at Winnipeg on Sunday.
“No question, disappointing to not have more points from the trip,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Ultimately, we had three games that were acceptable and two that weren’t good enough. … We need to obviously establish that we’re going to get some points at home. We’ve got a lot of home games the rest of the way.”
Patrick Kane, who leads the team in goals (27) and assists (47), added one of each in the loss to the Jets. The former Hart Trophy recipient has recorded 27 (seven goals, 20 assists) of his club-best 74 points in his last 19 games.
Captain Jonathan Toews has collected six points (two goals, four assists) in his past five contests.
Wednesday’s game also features two of the top three picks of the 2019 NHL Draft in Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko (No. 2) and Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach (No. 3).
–Field Level Media