Mika Zibanejad

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No Lundqvist, Nash or Grabner for banged-up Rangers tonight

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The Blueshirts are limping into this evening’s tilt with Carolina.

Starting netminder Henrik Lundqvist is sidelined with a lower-body injury. Leading goalscorer Michael Grabner will miss his fifth straight contest with a hip ailment. Alternate captain Rick Nash is out with a lingering upper-body issue.

So what sayeth you, J.T. Miller?

“People go down and people have to step into a different spot normally,” the Rangers’ leading scorer said, per the club website. “Just have to play like any other game.”

On their own, the losses are significant — but when piled on top of the guys New York was already without, it’s pretty overwhelming.

The Rangers were down the services of d-men Kevin Klein (back) and Dan Girardi (ankle), while versatile forward Jesper Fast is on the shelf with a separated shoulder.

As a result, head coach Alain Vingeault’s working with a patchwork lineup. The Chris KreiderDerek StepanMats Zuccarello line will remain intact, while Miller will jump to fill Nash’s spot alongside Pavel Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad.

Matt Puempel, a healthy scratch recently, will draw back in and play alongside Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Hayes. That leaves Tanner Glass, Oscar Lindberg and Brandon Pirri on the fourth line.

On defense, it’ll be Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Brendan Smith, Nick Holden, Brady Skjei and Steve Kampfer.

Antti Raanta will get the start, while ECHL recall Brandon Halverson will back up.

Video: Zibanejad grabs another OT winner, Rangers slip by Lightning

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Injuries and inconsistency have made for a slightly disappointing first season for Mika Zibanejad with the New York Rangers, but there are flashes of the brilliance many expected.

He’s shown those game-breaking abilities in sudden death situations, in particular, lately.

Zibanejad ended up scoring the lone goal to decide the goalie duel between Andrei Vasilevskiy and Antti Raanta, giving the Rangers a 1-0 OT win. The Tampa Bay Lightning keep carving out points, but couldn’t get that key extra one thanks to this nice finish, set up by Ryan McDonagh:

Nice, right? For your click’s worth, Zibanejad scored this cheeky OT-winner against the Devils on Feb. 25:

Jesper Fast out 2-3 weeks after suffering shoulder injury (update)

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Some tough news if you’re a fan of the New York Rangers.

According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Jesper Fast will miss some time with what’s believed to be a separated shoulder.

Fast suffered the injury after being flattened by Alex Ovechkin in last night’s 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.

The 25-year-old has been a key contributor for New York this season. He’s up to five goals and 15 assists in 59 games. He’s also second in shorthanded ice time and in hits among all Rangers forwards.

The Rangers went into last night’s game without Mika Zibanejad and they also lost Chris Kreider momentarily yesterday, but he was able to return.

*Update:

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault gave an update on Fast’s status after practice. The forward is expected to be out for anywhere between two to three weeks, which seems a lot better than “out indefinitely”.

In other injury news, Vigneault says he’s hoping defenseman Kevin Klein (back spasms) can skate tomorrow.

Capitals take care of business against Rangers in Shattenkirk’s debut

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The scary thing about the Washington Capitals acquiring Kevin Shattenkirk is just how formidable this team is even without him. That point was quite clear even as Shattenkirk looked quite solid in a debut win vs. the New York Rangers.

In tonight’s case, the Capitals’ vast arsenal of dangerous scorers really shone through.

Flexing their muscles

Marcus Johansson scored two goals and nabbed one assist. Nicklas Backstrom‘s 4-1 goal put a late comeback out of reach, ultimately accounting for the final score. Both Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen (another great right-handed defenseman for Washington) collected two assists.

Beyond the scoring stats, the Capitals impressed in the second period in particular. They fought back from a 1-0 deficit by scoring two goals in that middle frame while generating a 19-9 shots on goal advantage.

It felt like the Capitals were imposing their will at times in this one, giving Barry Trotz his 700th win as a head coach. He’s the sixth coach in NHL history to manage that many victories.

Rough one for the Rangers

This loss hurts the Rangers beyond the scoreboard and standings.

The team will need to monitor the health of multiple players going forward. Dan Girardi was ruled out of as much as two weeks’ worth of games while Mika Zibanejad was a late injury scratch. Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Jesper Fast all seemed to be shaken up during different times in this contest.

Falling short of standings points keeps the Rangers in fourth place in the highly competitive Metro Division.

Well … highly competitive for the second and third spots. We’ll see if anyone can even make Washington sweat, especially now that they added Shattenkirk to an already staggering array of weapons.

The Senators are making a serious run at the Atlantic Division title

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Forget simply making the playoffs, the Ottawa Senators are now challengers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division after their latest win.

Mike Condon stopped all 23 shots he faced on Thursday night in a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils to record his fifth shutout of the season and help lead the Senators to their 30th win.

The win does a lot of things for the Senators.

First, it helps give them a little extra cushion over the teams below them in the standings when it comes to securing a playoff spot. But it also brings them to within four points of the Montreal Canadiens for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. While a four point gap is normally more difficult to overcome at this point in the season than it would appear, this is not exactly a normal circumstance.

The Senators still have three games in hand on the Canadiens after Thursday night (they also have three games in hand on the Boston Bruins, the team immediately behind them in the standings), and also still have three head-to-head matchups remaining with the Canadiens. All three of those games come during an eight-day stretch between March 18 and March 25.

Assuming things stay as they are in the standings, they are going to be absolutely massive games.

No matter what happens the rest of the way it is still pretty surprising to even see the Senators in this position.

This is a team that missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons and did not really make any significant changes this offseason (they traded Mika Zibanejad for Derrick Brassard; hired Guy Boucher). They also have spent a large portion of this season without starting goalie Craig Anderson as he has been away with the team, turning the goal crease over to Condon, a goalie that was not even with the team at the start of the season.