New York Rangers vs. Minnesota Wild, 8:00 PM at Xcel Energy Center
Where To Watch: MSG
Where To Listen: 1050 ESPN Radio
Live In-Game Chat: 7:45 PM on BlueshirtsUnited.com
For many Blueshirts, tonight will be a homecoming when the Rangers (47-21-7, 101 pts) face off with the Minnesota Wild (31-34-10, 72 pts) at the Xcel Energy Center. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh grew up in St. Paul, the city where the Wild play. Center Derek Stepan is from nearby Hastings. Defenseman Stu Bickel is from Chanhassen and also played at the University of Minnesota. And both Marian Gaborik and John Scott began their NHL careers by playing for the Wild. Needless to say the Rangers will be well-represented by friends and family members in Minnesota tonight, the middle game of a three-game road trip for the Blueshirts. But all that said, it's about hockey this evening for the Rangers and trying to secure another two points while keeping their grip on first place in the Eastern Conference. With seven games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the Rangers own a one-point lead over the Penguins for the top spot. The Rangers, coming off Saturday's 4-3 shootout win over Toronto, have won three of their last four games, and have done so by displaying many of the positive traits that helped them shoot to the top of the standings throughout the first six months of the season. Gaborik and Brad Richards are both coming off strong two-point outings on Saturday---with Gaborik netting his 36th and 37th goals and Richards picking up a pair of assists---as their chemistry as linemates continues to build heading towards the post-season. The top two scorers on the team, Gaborik now has 68 points while Richards has 59. While the Rangers are battling for first place in the East, the Wild have already been eliminated from playoff contention in the West, currently 15 games out of eighth place with seven games to play. Minnesota has dropped two straight after winning two in a row, and is just 3-8-1 in the month of March.
This is the one and only meeting this season between the Rangers and the Wild. Last season the two clubs met twice, with each team winning in the other's building. The Rangers defeated Minnesota 5-2 back on November 20, 2010 at the Xcel Energy Center with Martin Biron stopping 26 shots in Marian Gaborik's first game back as a Ranger. Then on March 3, 2011 at The Garden the Wild exacted revenge with a 3-1 victory, one in which the winning goal was scored by Casey Wellman, who now is a member of the Rangers organization.
"It will always be special for me to go back and play (in Minnesota). I have a lot of great memories there. I don't think it will be as emotional for me as last year, but it's still big. And these are big games (in Minnesota and Winnipeg) for us this week. We have a lot to play for."-Marian Gaborik
By The Numbers
Marian Gaborik is the Wild's all-time franchise leader in goals (219), assists (218), points (437), power play goals (59), game-winning goals (43), and 30-goal seasons (5). He was the first player ever selected by the Wild in the NHL Entry Draft---3rd overall in 2000.
After appearing in 20 games for the Rangers earlier this season---and recording one goal and five points---Erik Christensen has played in 22 games for Minnesota following a trade from New York. Christensen was scoreless his first 13 games with the Wild before scoring four goals in a four-game stretch. He has been held without a point the last three games.
Will the Rangers snag another road victory tonight in Minnesota? Share your predictions.