New York Rangers (37-29-4) at Columbus Blue Jackets (35-27-6)
|Date & Time||Friday March 21, 2014, 7:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Columbus Blue Jackets -105 / New York Rangers -105 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
The biggest story heading into Friday night's contest between the New York Rangers and the Columbus Blue Jackets will be Rick Nash returning to the state of Ohio for the first time since his trade to New York. In Nash's first season with the Rangers, one shortened by a lockout, the teams were still in opposing conferences and didn't play one another. This season Nash sat out New York's first trip to Columbus after suffering an early season concussion. Now there's going to be a ton of focus on a player that quite frankly hasn't lived up to the hype since becoming a Ranger. Nash has been incredibly streaky and while he has the ability to dominate a game he just doesn't do it often enough. It's not surprising that these two teams have exchanged numerous players over the last few years and Columbus has gained ground while the Rangers seem to have plateaued. Despite Nash's return this game has even more meaning with the two clubs separated by just two points in the standings heading into Columbus' match up in Montreal on Thursday night. New York will still have played one more game than the Blue Jackets and a regulation win for either club could go a long way toward clinching a playoff spot. Nash finally ended his slump with two goals in New York's 8-4 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. It was a strange game that saw the Senators blow a 2-1 lead by allowing the Rangers to score three pretty fluky goals in the final five minutes of the that vaulted them to a 5-2 lead. Nash scored a shorthanded goal after stealing the puck at the blue line and added an empty net goal to seal the deal. Derick Brassard also scored twice and added an assist, and John Moore, Ryan McDonagh, Benoit Pouliot, and Derek Stepan also scored to lift the Rangers to the victory. It wasn't a pretty game by any stretch and head coach Alain Vigneault knows that he needs his club to correct mistakes they made in the defensive zone if they want to compete with a very good Columbus crew. It would be devastating for the Blue Jackets if they failed to reach the post season after another season where we've seen their players give maximum effort. After missing by a single point last year and still having yet to win a playoff game in their franchise history, it's imperative that this be the year they finally take that next step. Right now they look like they're in a good position to be one of the final wild card teams and if you're the Bruins or Penguins you've got to be just a little worried about potentially facing them. This should be a fun one on Friday night but I'm going to give the edge to the Rangers who will have the extra rest while Columbus is playing the second end of a back-to-back.