The first game of the New Year for both the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers, the top two teams in the Metro Division will face off this evening at Madison Square Garden. The Canes will make their way South after the game to head down to our nation's capital.
The Rangers are off to a tremendous start this season, leading the Metro Division with 51 points, which also leads the entire NHL.
After a hiccup in South Florida against the Panthers, the Rangers rebounded nicely, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday by a score of 5-1. A fairly convincing showing, New York ended the year back on track.
Peter Laviolette's group has two quick home games this week with the second game welcoming Connor Bedard to the Garden. But tonight will be a strong test for the juggernaut to keep the Canes at bay as Carolina looks to find their game.
At home, the Rangers are 12-4. Those 12 wins are up at the top of the NHL as well. On the other hand, the Canes have struggled on the road at .500 with a 10-10-1 record. Like many teams in the league, the Canes have struggled at the Garden and in the state of New York in general this season.
The boys from Manhattan are once again led by Artemi Panarin. His 50 points leads the team, as well as his 23 goals and 27 assists. The knock of Panarin has always been that he cannot come close to his regular season production when it counts, in the playoffs.
Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad also are having similar production as Zibanejad has 37 points, while Kreider has 18 goals. Former Cane, Vincent Trocheck, has had a solid season with 24 assists and 33 points.
On defense, Adam Fox still leads the group despite missing significant time to injury. The small in stature defenseman is distributing the puck well again this season with 21 assists.
Igor Shesterkin has had a down year for his normal but still good for any other goalie. The real surprise has been veteran, Jonathan Quick. In his first year with the Rangers, he has a 2.41 GAA and .916 save percentage in 13 games. The former LA Kings goaltender has 9 wins this season and has been a formidable backup.
After the much needed rest, the Canes will look for the fresh start of the New Year to get back on track and make a statement to the rest of the division that the former champs will not go lightly.