NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight as the New York Rangers host the L.A. Kings at Madison Square Garden, starting at 7:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.
The New York Rangers will look to add to their lead in the Presidents’ Trophy race Monday night when they play host to the L.A. Kings in the second and final meeting between last season’s Stanley Cup final participants.
New York (46-18-7) won the only other meeting between the two clubs 4-3 on Jan. 8.
The Rangers enter the game winners of seven of their last eight games while Kings (35-23-14) snapped a two-game skid with a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils Monday night.
Tonight is the second of a five-game road trip, which could make or break the Kings’ playoff aspirations.
The Kings currently sit outside the playoff picture trailing the Calgary Flames by two points for the third seed in the Pacific Division. L.A. is four points back of the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.
L.A. is looking to avoid being the first team since the 2006-07 Carolina Hurricanes to miss the playoffs the year after winning the Stanley Cup.
Mike Richards returned to the Kings’ lineup for the first time since Jan. 21 on Monday. The 30-year-old was a minus-1 in 11:41 of ice time in the win. Monday also marked the return of Alec Martinez to L.A.’s lineup. Martinez had been sidelined since Feb. 7 due to a concussion.
New York is 16-4-5 against the Western Conference and 11-1-1 against the Pacific Division.
The Rangers are 17-3-3 in 23 games since starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was sidelined due to a vascular injury. Cam Talbot is 15-3-3 with a 2.12 goals-against average in Lundqvist’s absence.
Jonathan Quick made 19 saves against the Devils last night. He is 6-3-2 with a 1.86 GAA and two shutouts while making 11 straight starts. Quick owns a 1.97 GAA while winning six of nine meetings with New York, including spring’s Stanley Cup final.
Following his demotion to the American Hockey League in late January, Mike Richards has put together three goals and 14 points in 16 games with the Manchester Monarchs.
The production has Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi talking about a possible recall for the 30-year-old.
“We’re running him through some tests right now,” Lombardi told Sportsnet on Thursday. “I mean, the one thing about Michael everybody knows, when there’s big games or critical moments, he’s always there. And we just gotta get him up to that capacity to be able to do that.
“But there’s very much a possibility he’ll be back.”
Prior to being demoted, Richards was having one of the worst seasons of his career. He had just five goals and 15 points to go along with a minus-7 rating in 47 games while averaging a career-low 13:42 in ice time.
Richards carries a $5.75 million cap hit in the NHL and has another five seasons remaining on his deal.
If his AHL production can translate back to the NHL level it’d be beneficial for all parties involved.
“The only thing I can say about this group, it’s been a group that’s essentially been together now for five years and they never let themselves down, they never quit,” Lombardi said. “They almost like having their backs against the wall. The one way you’re able to sleep at night is you know they’re a group that cares.
“That’s our strongest asset in terms of this team is 20 guys who care about each other and either way you know they’re going to be out there fighting.”
Richards is certainly a part of that group and could be an asset if he can rediscover his game at the NHL level.
Richards, 29 years old and a veteran of 704 NHL regular season games, had a goal and two assists in the Monarchs’ 4-1 victory over the Albany Devils on Wednesday.
“I’m getting used to playing with the same linemates, and getting to know them a little bit better,” said Richards, as per the Monarchs website. “I thought we made some plays tonight, but still have some things to work on.”