Rangers lead NHL standings after Talbot torments Panthers

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When New York Rangers GM Glen Sather went all-in at the trade deadline, he was probably envisioning something like this.

After beating the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Sunday, the Rangers are clearly the top team in the Eastern Conference at the moment and hold tiebreakers over whichever West team wins tonight’s Nashville Predators – Anaheim Ducks game.

Goaltending’s been a big part of their strong work, even if the guy you’d expect to be driving things (Henrik Lundqvist) hasn’t been healthy enough to go.

Mackenzie Skapski turned heads with his first NHL shutout on Saturday, yet Cam Talbot continues to make an argument that he can be a No. 1 goalie himself. He stopped 38 out of 39 shots for his 17th win of the 2014-15 season, and it’s pretty clear that New York leaned heavily upon him today:

The Rangers now have 95 standings points, which seats them five points ahead against the New York Islanders (who have played three more games than the Rangers). The Blueshirts also have a seven-point lead and one game in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins, so a division title looks very likely as of this writing.

(The Rangers also have a two-point edge and game in hand on Montreal for the East’s No. 1 spot, so … yeah, it’s a pretty rosy situation right now.)

Is this to say the Rangers are perfect? No, it’s probably fair to wonder if this remarkable run of goaltending might hit a brick wall in the postseason. One could probably strain to find other negatives here and there.

Still, the Rangers are looking like a force in the East right now, and Talbot is a big reason why.

They do, however, have to keep an eye on Martin St. Louis’ injury situation. Read more about that here.

Quick study: Rangers’ Skapski nabs shutout in second NHL start

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Few probably heard of Mackenzie Skapski before February – many probably remarked “That can’t be a real name” – but he’s done a nice job in his first career NHL starts.

Three weeks after winning in his league debut with the New York Rangers, he stopped all 20 Buffalo Sabres shots for his first career shutout as New York blanked Buffalo 2-0 on Saturday.

Yes, it’s true that the degree of difficulty wasn’t awfully high, considering the low volume of shots and the low regard of the Sabres as an opponent.

Still, after leaning so heavily on Cam Talbot, the Rangers have to feel a little bit better about turning to their oddly named third option when needed.

Again, it’s clear that he’s doing the most with his opportunities so far:

Hey, he’s already getting ragged on by teammates, too:

Goalie Nods: Rangers’ Skapski gets second NHL start

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Skapski starts vs. Sabres

Mackenzie Skapski will make his second career NHL start tonight as the New York Rangers visit the Buffalo Sabres. The 20-year-old got his first NHL win with a 24 save performance defeating the Sabres 3-1 on Feb. 20. Skapski was 12-7-3 to go along with a .914 save percentage and a 2.38 in 24 AHL games prior to being recalled.

Anders Lindback gets the nod for Buffalo.

Elsewhere…

Blackhawks at Sharks: Corey Crawford vs. Antti Niemi

Leafs at Canucks: Jonathan Bernier vs. Eddie Lack

Panthers at Hurricanes: Dan Ellis vs. Cam Ward

Canadiens at Islanders: Carey Price vs. Michal Neuvirth

Jets at Lightning: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Wild at Blues: Devan Dubnyk vs. Brian Elliott

Devils at Coyotes:Cory Schneider vs. Mike Smith

Flames at Avalanche: Karri Ramo vs. Semyon Varlamov

Predators at Kings: Pekka Rinne vs. Jonathan Quick

Lundqvist continues to skate but still no timetable for his return

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New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, out since Feb. 2 with a vascular injury, continues to skate, but there is still no update on when he could possibly return to game action.

That’s according to multiple reports Friday, including from The Record.

“I’m not quite sure what the next steps are, we’ll find out,” said Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault, as per the club’s website.

“When he gets clearance I don’t expect it to be too long before he’s in goal. He’s been skating since the beginning. The only thing he hasn’t been doing is taking shots up top. My understanding of his work load is that it’s been very intense, so it shouldn’t take him long to be back and playing.”

While Lundqvist has been out, Cam Talbot has done an impressive job taking over the starting duties.

Talbot has 12 wins in 17 games since Lundqvist went down with injury, and has allowed only a combined five goals in his last five starts.

It appears, however, that Talbot will get a night off. Mackenzie Skapski will start Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres, as per Andrew Gross.

Video: Nash scores game winner, moves within one goal of Alex Ovechkin

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Rick Nash continues to close in on his career high for goals. He also happens to be nipping at the heels of Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in that department, too.

Nash scored the game winner for the New York Rangers, as they defeated the Buffalo Sabres by a final score of 3-1 on Friday.

Mackenzie Skapski, making his NHL debut in goal for the Rangers, gave up a goal 14 seconds into the first period, but that was it, as he stopped 24 of 25 shots and picked up his first career victory in the big league.

At the age of 30, Nash is up to 37 goals this season. That’s one back of Ovechkin, who was not in action on Friday, and four off his career best of 41, set back in 2003-04. The veteran Rangers’ winger finished off a pretty passing play less than a minute into the second period, giving his team a 2-1 lead.