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Rangers at Blues: Special teams could make the difference

New York Rangers' defenseman Ryan McDonagh skates against

New York Rangers' defenseman Ryan McDonagh skates against the New York Islanders during the second period on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

ST. LOUIS – The Rangers were 2-0 against the Blues last season, but that doesn’t guarantee anything when the two teams meet at Scottrade Center Saturday night. The new-look Blueshirts will be tested by a team that went 24-13-4 at home last year; the Rangers were just 19-17-5 on the road.

— After Jake Allen was between the pipes for the team’s first two wins, backup Carter Hutton gets the start. Hutton has faced the Rangers just once in his last four seasons with Nashville. He allowed one goal in a win at MSG on Dec. 10, 2013. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said he liked Carter’s preseason work and is rewarding him with an early-season start.

— Special teams could be a deciding factor: The Blues are 8 for 9 in the penalty-kill in two games; the Rangers are 3 for 3, and allowed the Islanders just three shots on goal in those six minutes shorthanded.

But the Blues power play is potent: they have scored three times in eight opportunities this season and were sixth in the NHL last season at 21.5 percent. The Blueshirts are 1-for-5, but moved the puck well against the Islanders.

— Who’s red-hot for the Blues? The dangerous Vladimir Tarasenko, who had 40 goals and 74 points in 80 games last season, is starting strong: 2-1-3 with nine shots…. Paul Stastny is 1-3-4 and has a .609 faceoff-win percentage…Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, a New Rochelle native who was the subject of offseason trade rumors and an unrestricted free agent in June, is 1-2-3, and Alexander Steen, who played with Henrik Lundqvist in Sweden for Frolunda from 1999-2003, already has three points. And keep an eye on Colton Parayko, 23, a rising star on defense, and Nail Yakupov, just acquired from Edmonton.

— For the Rangers: Lundqvist has won his last three starts/appearances against St. Louis…Chris Kreider (1-1-2) and Mika Zibanejad (0-2-2)---now linemates---are 3-2-5 and 1-4-5 respectively in their last five games against the Blues…D Kevin Klein (back spasms) remained in New York…Dylan McIlrath and Josh Jooris are expected to be healthy scratches again.

PROJECTED RANGERS LINEUP

FORWARDS

Jimmy Vesey-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich

J.T. Miller-Kevin Hayes-Rick Nash

Michael Grabner-Brandon Pirri-Jesper Fast

DEFENSE

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Nick Holden

Brady Skjei-Adam Clendening

GOALTENDERS

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

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