While Chris Kreider has been scoring goals frequently, Artemi Panarin is off to a slow start but is coming off his most productive night of the season.
Kreider attempts to continue his hot start while Panarin hopes to follow up his first two-goal game with another productive contest Sunday night when the New York Rangers host the New Jersey Devils.
Kreider is among the NHL leaders with 11 goals, trailing only Edmonton Oilers star Leon Draisaitl (14 goals) and Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (12 goals) early on. Kreider has seven goals in his last six games. The Rangers improved to 6-1-2 when he scores, after he tallied twice in Saturday’s 5-3 win over the host Columbus Blue Jackets.
Kreider tallied his first goal when the Rangers scored three times in 63 seconds during the second period, and he added his NHL-leading seventh power-play goal in the third. Those goals occurred after Panarin scored twice, marking his first multi-goal game since April 15 against New Jersey.
“I think it was the end result of us doing the right things,” Kreider said. “There are going to be stretches where pucks aren’t going in, but we’re getting looks, and they can come in bunches like that, especially with some of the skill that we have on this group.”
Panarin has four goals through his first 14 games after totaling 49 goals in his first two seasons as a Ranger. Three of those goals are in his last seven contests, a stretch that has seen him total 11 of his 15 points.
The Rangers are seeking their second three-game winning streak of the season. They won four straight Oct. 16-23 and then lost four of their next six (2-2-2), a stretch that included overtime losses in Vancouver and Edmonton and a 6-0 shellacking in Calgary.
If Kreider and Panarin can continue their production, it likely will be against goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood, who is off to a fast start following offseason heel surgery.
Blackwood is 2-0-1 with a .945 save percentage since making his season debut in a 3-2 overtime loss to the host Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 5. He last played when he stopped 42 shots in Thursday’s 4-0 win over the New York Islanders.
Blackwood did not play Saturday when the Devils never led and saw their three-game winning streak halted with a 5-2 loss to the visiting Boston Bruins. Rookie Dawson Mercer and Jesper Bratt scored, but New Jersey struggled at sustaining offense and rarely had odd-man rushes after often producing those plays Thursday.
“They probably blocked a lot of shots (25), but when you don’t get inside, it allows them to turn (to) the puck, and we didn’t shoot pucks quick enough,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “The result was we spent too much time outside the (face-off) dot.”
The Rangers enter with a six-game winning streak over the Devils after outscoring them 30-10 in the final six meetings last season. Kreider and Panarin combined for eight goals in those games as the Rangers beat Blackwood in five of those contests.
–Field Level Media