Opening Faceoff – Rangers vs. Coyotes

Marc Staal (Getty)

The Rangers and the Arizona Coyotes faceoff tonight at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The Rangers followed up their massive Winter Classic victory with a very disappointing 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday while the Coyotes finally grabbed their 10th win of the season with an overtime win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

This is a game the Rangers need to grab and some fans would probably call a “trap game.” The Coyotes have not been good this year but there are some players on that team that just can’t be given open ice. The Coyotes are 3-7-0 in their last 10 games.

Keys to the Game

The Rangers need to bring it for a full 60 minutes and assert themselves are the dominant team early on in this contest. They are the better team and they need to show. Let the forwards use their speed to back the defense up and let players like Kevin Shattenkirk and Brady Skjei push the puck up the ice. This is a game the Rangers should win handily and although there is no such thing as an easy win in the NHL, anything can happen on any given night. This game has classic Ranger let down written all over it so they must get after it and dominate early on. Don’t let the Coyotes have any kind of space and play a simple, smart and focused road game in Glendale. The Rangers are the better team. Prove it early and prove it all night.

Special Teams

It seems this comes up a lot with the Rangers but it needs to be said: this team needs to capture that magic that the powerplay had in the beginning of the season. Now with Mika Zibanejad back in the fold it should’ve been easier now right? Wrong. Chris Kreider will be out much longer after the news that he is having rib surgery. So we get our trigger man back in the left circle but we lose our best net front presence for a lot longer than originally anticipated. Players like Rick Nash and Kevin Hayes must step up and use their big bodies to be that net front presence that the team needs in order to have that last solid ingredient for our power play to work.

Puck Management

This is a big one because what the Coyotes lack in experience they offset it with all the speed they possess. They are young, quick and can kill you with players like Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer, Christian Dvorak and Brenden Perlini among others. Bottom line: do not turn the puck over to the Coyotes fast young players because it will kill the Rangers if they do. Limit the turnovers and the Rangers will come out this game with a win.

Players to watch
J.T. Miller

Miller is my first pick for a player to watch from the Rangers because he has recently been promoted to the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello. Miller is a very creative player who manages to play the game with extreme intensity and knows how to battle in front of the net and in those dirty areas. Now that he is playing with the two best playmakers on the Rangers, it is going to be exciting to see just what he can do and we could see him reach even bigger heights with them team.

Brady Skjei

Skjei has been a wonder to watch this season. I believe in time he will be an even better player than current Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh. I see a future captain in Skjei as well. This game will be another good test for the blossoming star blueliner to shine as he gets to test himself against a young and speedy Coyotes team that boats one of the best young players in the league in Clayton Keller. Speaking of whom…

Clayton Keller

Keller is a dynamic offensive talent that if rumors are true was extremely close to being a Ranger just two years ago at the 2016 entry draft. He has put up very good numbers this seasons and leads the Coyotes in points (14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points). He started off the season as hot as hot can be, cooled off a bit and just recently went on an eight game point streak. The Rangers must contain Keller in order to win this game. Don’t let him take the game over, stop him before he gets started.

Anthony Duclair

Former Rangers Anthony Duclair makes this list also because there are rumors floating around that he’d ask to be dealt… Could a reunion be in the cards with the Rangers current injuries at forward? Maybe. Although he’s had a bit of a down past two season he still possesses a great skill set and should be carefully watched when on the ice. There’s a reason he was very sought after.

The puck drops at 8 pm! LETS GO RANGERS!

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