Rangers vs. Wild: Rangers Fall to Wild 4-1 at Madison Square Garden

Rangers vs. Wild: Rangers Fall to Wild 4-1 at Madison Square Garden

The New York Rangers did not fare very well this evening at Madison Square Garden and were defeated 4-1 by the Minnesota Wild. This now marks the Rangers’ sixth straight loss in regulation since beating the Winnipeg Jets back on February 11. With all of the uncertainty surrounding the team with potential roster shakeups, the Rangers had a bit of positive news tonight with Chris Kreider returning to the lineup.

Kreider had missed the previous 24 games after being diagnosed with a blood clot in his arm a few days after Christmas. It was an overall scary situation and seeing him return to this ice this evening was a great sight. The game, however, was not much of a pretty sight with the Rangers only registering 23 shots on goal in regulation.

Mikael Granlund opened the scoring for the Minnesota Wild late in the first period following a miscue behind the net by Tony DeAngelo. Eric Staal was able to quickly transition the turnover into the high slot and Granlund snapped the puck past Alexander Georgiev. A little over two minutes later, Eric Staal cashed in on his own opportunity after deflecting home a ridiculous behind-the-back pass from Zach Parise to make it a 2-0 lead for the Wild.

The Rangers finally stopped the onslaught early in the second period with Jesper Fast converting on a beautiful cross-ice feed from J.T. Miller. Devan Dubnyk almost slid across the crease to stop the chance, but Fast kept the puck on the ice and made it a 2-1 game. At that point it appeared as if the Rangers were finally turning the corner, but the Wild came storming back in the third period to take control of the game once again.

Eric Staal picked up his second goal of the game just 52 seconds into the third period on yet another deflection in front of Georgiev, and the Wild took a 3-1 lead. Mikael Granlund also added his second goal of the night just nine minutes later on a 2-on-1, and snapped the puck past Georgiev on the glove side.

The Rangers weren’t able to generate much of anything during the second half of the third period, and went down by a final score of 4-1. The Rangers will have one more game scheduled before Monday’s trade deadline on Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings. It will also be a pretty special night at Madison Square Garden with the Rangers honoring long-time great Jean Ratelle and raising his number to the MSG rafters forever.

Rangers' skid continues with 4-1 loss to Wild

Rangers' skid continues with 4-1 loss to Wild

Chris Kreider returned to the lineup Friday, but not much changed for the Rangers.

Eric Staal, a deadline acquisition by the Rangers two years ago, scored twice as the Blueshirts fell to the Wild, 4-1, losing their sixth straight in regulation. The Rangers have lost 16 of their last 21 games.

Kreider played for the first time since Dec. 27, when he left after the first period and was diagnosed with a blood clot in his right arm. He underwent a rib resection on Jan. 7 and ended up missing 24 games over roughly eight weeks.

Chris Kreider returned to the lineup Friday, but not much changed for the Rangers.

Chris Kreider returned to the lineup Friday, but not much changed for the Rangers.

(Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mikael Granlund also scored twice for Minnesota. Jesper Fast cut the Rangers’ deficit to one at 2:41 of the second, but Staal’s power-play goal 52 seconds into the third put the Wild back up by two.

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Chris Kreider's return to ice excites reeling Rangers

Chris Kreider's return to ice excites reeling Rangers

At a time when gloom and uncertainty has permeated throughout the Rangers’ locker room as players have begun being shipped out and more action coming before Monday’s deadline, they had reason Friday night to be more upbeat with the return of Chris Kreider to the lineup against the Wild.

Kreider was set to play for the first time since Dec. 27, when he left after the first period and was diagnosed with a blood clot in his right arm. He underwent a rib resection on Jan. 7 and ended up missing 24 games over roughly eight weeks.

“He hasn’t practiced much, but the time he’s had, he’s such a hard worker and such a specimen as far as conditioning that he’s been anxious to come back and help out his teammates,” Alain Vigneault said before the game. “So I’m gonna play him, and I think he’s gonna be good.”

Kreider, who had 11 goals and 11 assist in his first 37 games this season, returned to practice on Feb. 14. He said he was born with a “malformed rib” which he never thought would be a problem but ultimately led to the blood clot.

Rangers trade Michael Grabner to Devils

The speedy 26-year-old return came less than 24 hours after the Rangers shipped Michael Grabner across the Hudson River to the Devils for a second-round pick and defensive prospect Yegor Rykov. It was the team’s second trade of the week having previous dealt Nick Holden.

Rick Nash, who skated Friday morning, was made a healthy scratch against Minnesota for the second straight night as he’s set to be traded. Ryan McDonagh, who also skated Friday morning but was set to miss his eighth straight game with an upper-body injury, is a candidate to be moved.

Chris Kreider underwent a rib resection on Jan. 7 and ended up missing 24 games over roughly eight weeks.

Chris Kreider underwent a rib resection on Jan. 7 and ended up missing 24 games over roughly eight weeks.

(Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The news of the Holden trade was difficult for Grabner, as he expressed on Twitter, and two days later he was also dealt.

“Thank you to the @NYRangers and their fans for a fun 2 years,” Grabner tweeted Friday. “I enjoyed had a blast,met awesome people and made some great memories for life..now a new chapter starts with the @NJDevils I am excited to join them for the late season push and see what we accomplish rest of the way!”

Rangers fall to Canadiens 3-1 ahead of NHL trade deadline

Vigneault gave Grabner all the credit for the success he had as a Ranger, scoring 52 goals in 135 games.

“He got an opportunity to play and play well, and he took full advantage of it,” Vigneault said. “Scored some big goals, was a good penalty-killer, a good teammate. Tried reaching him a couple of times today, he tried reaching me, we couldn’t connect there. But we wish him the best.”

After he made 38 saves in his NHL debut Thursday, Vigneault went with Alexandar Georgiev in goal again Friday. Vigneault said goaltending coach Benoit Allaire wanted extra time to work with Lundqvist, who after playing well for months has hit a snag recently. Lundqvist started 50 of the Rangers’ first 60 games.

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Rangers' Anthony DeAngelo: Continues to impress offensively

Rangers' Anthony DeAngelo: Continues to impress offensively

DeAngelo picked up a power-play helper and five shots in Thursday’s 3-1 loss to Montreal.

He’s flown under the radar with the banged-up Rangers dropping precipitously in the standings, but the 2014 first-rounder is showing some serious offensive chops from the blue line. DeAngelo’s dished out three power-play assists in the past seven games while posting a trio of five-shot performances and another pair of three-shot games during that stretch. However, his minus-9 rating in that span suggests DeAngelo still has quite a ways to go on the defensive end, and things are unlikely to get any better in that category this season with New York selling some of the pieces around him ahead of Monday’s upcoming trade deadline.

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Hartnett: Rangers Take Another Step Toward Rebuild By Dealing Grabner

Hartnett: Rangers Take Another Step Toward Rebuild By Dealing Grabner

By Sean Hartnett
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News broke not long after the Rangers’ 3-1 road defeat to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night that Michael Grabner was packing his bags for a new home. Well kind of. To the surprise of many fans, Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton found an atypical trading partner in the rival Devils.

A historic, first-ever trade between the clubs shipped Grabner across the Hudson to New Jersey for 20-year-old defenseman Igor Rykov and a 2018 second-round draft pick. Grabner’s lightning speed, eye for goals and penalty-killing prowess will be a major boost to the Devils’ Stanley Cup hopes. Through 59 games, Grabner has scored 25 goals. He is on pace to finish the current campaign with 34 goals.

In a season when the perennially playoff-bound Rangers and the recently playoff-starved Devils have switched roles, it is now the Rangers who are operating as trade deadline sellers. The Grabner deal was the next domino to fall after the Rangers dealt veteran defenseman Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday for 24-year-old defenseman Rob O’Gara and a 2018 third-round pick.

Michael Grabner

The Rangers’ Michael Grabner (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

O’Gara, Rykov, picks and the assets gained from the impending departure of Rick Nash will go toward the Rangers’ plan of restocking their pool of youth and rebuilding efforts.

Rykov is skating in his third season for SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL alongside Rangers top goaltending prospect Igor Shesterkin. Through 51 games this season, Rykov has collected two goals and 12 assists. He put in standout performances in helping SKA capture the 2017 Gagarin Cup. Rykov was selected as KHL rookie of the week in the Gagarin Cup quarterfinals and Gagarin Cup Finals.

MORE: Lichtenstein: Another Shero Shock Sends Speedy Grabner To Devils

At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Rykov possesses NHL-ready size – but there’s a lot to like about his wide-ranging skillset. He packs a heavy shot, is an adept puck handler and projects toward becoming a dependable two-way defenseman thanks to his intelligence on both ends of the rink.

Grabner and Nash were held out of Thursday’s game as a precaution. It appears that the completion of a deal that sends Nash to a new address shouldn’t be too far behind. Following the Grabner deal, the Rangers now possess eight picks in the 2018 draft. This includes five picks in the first three rounds.

As for the game itself, the slumping Rangers slipped to a fifth consecutive loss. The current Rangers are very much a makeshift group, bereft of experience and unable to summon anything resembling a solid 60 minutes.

What fans are witnessing right now is a young team that is experiencing growing pains. Back in September, the Rangers didn’t expect to be handing healthy NHL minutes to the likes of Neal Pionk, Vinni Lettieri, John Gilmour and a host of other youngsters in late February. Mistakes are inevitable when a team is forced to lean on inexperienced youth – but all the lessons learned will pay off for the Rangers once these new faces reach maturity.

O’Gara’s positioning cost the Rangers early in the contest, allowing Tomas Plekanec to score the game’s opening goal. While he did not have the best debut, the subpar performance will soon be forgotten if O’Gara can make a positive impression in the season’s final months.

The Rangers were disjointed and possession-deficient for the first two periods before finding their offensive legs in the third period. The Blueshirts were outshot 32-14 combined in the first two periods but gained an 18-9 shooting advantage in the third period. Alexandar Georgiev excelled between the pipes for the Rangers in his NHL debut, recording 38 saves on 40 shots. The 22-year-old netminder’s heroics kept the game from ending with a lopsided score, as the Canadiens brought an energy and execution level that the Rangers could not match.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey