A handful of Rangers are expected to be selected to World Cup of Hockey teams on Wednesday, when preliminary 16-man rosters are announced for the tournament, which will be played in Toronto in September.
Henrik Lundqvist will be chosen for Team Sweden, which is making the announcement at the MSG Training Center at 12:30 p.m. Captain Ryan McDonagh is expected to be named to the U.S. team at 6:45 p.m. and center Derek Stepan also is a strong candidate. Mats Zuccarello should be selected for Team Europe, which will reveal its preliminary roster at 4:30 p.m.
Each club is expected to name 16 players for the 23-man squad, with the rest to be added in coming months.
Teams representing Canada, Russia, Finland, the Czech Republic and North America, the latter restricted to players under age 24, also are planning announcements Wednesday. Team Europe will be comprised of the top players from countries outside the four European countries competing.
Lundqvist, who will be 34 on Wednesday, represented Sweden in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, winning a gold medal in 2006 and silver in 2014. McDonagh, 26, played defense on Team USA in 2014 and for American junior teams. Stepan, 25, played in the 2014 Olympics, for the U.S. national team in 2011 and the junior team in 2010, which won a goal medal. Zuccarello, 28, played for Team Norway in 2010 and 2014.
The Rangers (37-20-6, 80 points) have 19 games to play, beginning with a back-to-back in Pittsburgh on Thursday and in Washington on Friday. They host the Islanders for the first time this season on Sunday . . . Eric Staal, acquired from Carolina on Sunday, is expected to play his second game as a Ranger against the Penguins. In 46 career games against Pittsburgh, Staal is 19-27-46. He had a goal and assist in four games against the Penguins as a member of the Hurricanes this season.