New York Rangers

Stepan scores at end of third, OT to stop Jackets’ win streak at nine

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They won’t make the playoffs, but the Columbus Blue Jackets have been making a statement by winning nine straight games. It goes to show you what this season might have been like for them had they not been devastated by injuries early on. They nearly earned their 10th consecutive win tonight, but the NHL-leading New York Rangers managed to squeak by with a 4-3 overtime victory.

This was a back-and-forth game, but with the clock approaching zero it seemed former Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky’s third period goal would prove to be the game-winner. It certainly looked like it would be after Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made an absolutely stunning save on a shot by New York defenseman Dan Girardi with less than a minute left in regulation time.

Bobrovsky’s heroics were spoiled though by a goal from Derek Stepan with roughly 28 seconds left.

Stepan did it again by scoring the winner with less than a minute remaining in overtime.

With that New York has won four straight games to improve to 51-21-7 this season. That winning streak has given them a clear edge in the Presidents’ Trophy race:

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Goalie nods: Canucks sticking with Lack, who wants ‘to be the hero again’

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All the latest from the blue paint…

You can be their hero, Eddie

The Canucks had three goalies on the ice for this morning’s optional skate — Ryan Miller, Jacob Markstrom and Eddie Lack — but it’ll be the latter who’ll get the start tonight in a crucial tilt versus Los Angeles.

Lack hasn’t exactly been a hero over his last five games, going 2-2-1 with a .903 save percentage, numbers that have been skewed by tough outings in Winnipeg (five goals on 36 shots) and Nashville (four goals on 38). It’s also worth noting Lack’s seen an awful lot of rubber lately; he’s faced an average of 35.2 shots per game over his last five, including 40 in a overtime loss to Dallas last week.

With Miller getting closer to a return to game action, tonight’s tilt will prove huge for Lack’s future as Vancouver’s No. 1. Tonight’s tilt will also prove huge for Western Conference playoff jockeying, as the Kings head into tonight’s action just three points back of Vancouver in the Pacific, and one back of Calgary.

Speaking of the Kings, no official word yet on who’ll start, but it’s expected to be Jonathan Quick.

Elsewhere…

‘Canes at Sabres: Cam Ward vs. Anders Lindback

Blue Jackets at Rangers: Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Jets at Wild: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Devan Dubnyk (“DUUUBS” — Halford.)

Stars at Sharks: (No Dallas starter yet) vs. Alex Stalock

Yandle improving after ‘adjustment period’ with Rangers

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With a goal and an assist, Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle had one of his more productive outings in Saturday’s 6-1 victory over the Devils.

The fact he was named third star must have been a nice bonus for the 28-year-old, given it hasn’t been the smoothest of transitions since being traded from Arizona prior to the deadline.

According to coach Alain Vigneault, it’s natural for players to endure an “adjustment period” before they get comfortable with new teammates.

“How quick guys get available, how quick they get into open ice,” Vigneault explained ahead of tonight’s game against Columbus (video).

“Keith’s a real smart player, real good with the puck. Every day he’s gotten a little bit better at understanding when it’s the opportunity, when it’s a good percentage to jump in, to stay back, etc. And I think as we move forward here, he’s only going to get better.”

Yandle has also been playing considerably less for the deeper Rangers (19:22 per game) than he did with the Coyotes (23:55). That’s probably been an adjustment, too.

On top of that, he’s called the defensive system the Rangers play “much different” than he was used to in Arizona.

“You have to try to take time and space away no matter what side of the ice,” he said, per the New York Post. “You get the puck back and go.

“There’s so much skill here, and everyone works so hard. The will, the effort; it’s a fun system to be a part of. Everyone has 100 percent bought into AV’s system.”

Yandle’s real value will be measured in the playoffs. For example, can he help a power play that’s scored just four times in the Rangers’ last 18 games? That would go a long way to proving his worth.

Tonight against the Jackets, Yandle is expected to start on the third pair with Matt Hunwick.

Goalie Nods: Halak looks to bump slump vs. Sabres

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Halak gets the nod for the Isles

Jaroslav Halak will look to get back on track against the lowly Buffalo Sabres Saturday night. Halak has lost two of three starts while allowing 10 goals on 101 shots. He gave up three goals on 39 shots in the Islanders 4-3 shootout loss to Columbus on Thursday. New York has lost four of five, but can clinch a playoff berth with a regulation win tonight.

Andrey Makarov gets the start for Buffalo.

Elsewhere…

Penguins at Blue Jackets: Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Canucks at Jets: Eddie Lack vs. Ondrej Pavelec

Red Wings at Wild: Jimmy Howard vs. Devan Dubnyk

Devils at Rangers: Cory Schneider vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Lightning at Panthers: Ben Bishop vs. Roberto Luongo

Capitals at Senators: Braden Holtby vs. Andrew Hammond

Leafs at Bruins: James Reimer vs. Tuukka Rask

Stars at Predators: Jhonas Enroth vs. Pekka Rinne

Sharks at Coyotes: Antti Niemi (unconfirmed) vs. Mike Smith

Flames at Oilers: Karri Ramo vs. Ben Scrivens

Avalanche at Kings: Semyon Varlamov vs. Jonathan Quick

Masterton nominees include Doan, Darling and Dubnyk

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The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded to the player that “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.” It was awarded last year to Rangers forward Dominic Moore, who lost his wife, Katie, to cancer in January of 2013.

This year’s 30 nominees (one for each team) can be found here at the website of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Nominees include Arizona’s Shane Doan, whose bout with Rocky Mountain spotted fever was well-documented; Chicago’s Scott Darling, who started his pro career with the Louisiana IceGators of the Southern Professional Hockey League; and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk, whose NHL career has been resurrected in a most remarkable way this season.

Here’s video of Moore from June: