Rangers begin roadswing at Blackhawks
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CHICAGO -- If the New York Rangers were attempting to find a way to build some confidence as they embark on a nine-day, four-game swing, Mika Zibanejad provided a performance the Rangers hope they can build on.
The Rangers open their trip west on Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks fresh off a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers that was sparked by Zibanejad, who tallied two goals and two assists in the victory on Monday night.
New York was efficient offensively in the victory, netting four goals in just 19 shots as the Rangers continued to play well at home, where they have won three of their past five games. Now, as they prepare for Wednesday's game in Chicago and three more games in California before they return back to Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4, the Rangers will look to do what they can to replicate Tuesday's victory on the road.
New York is 0-2-1 in road games this season. Rangers coach David Quinn is hoping that the performance his team got from Zibanejad against the Panthers can help provide some magic in the upcoming road trip.
"I can't tell you how happy I am for him that he's getting rewarded statistically, because I know early on he was playing really good hockey and not getting rewarded," Quinn told reporters following Tuesday's victory. "I'll tell you, he's a complete player. I knew he was a good player before I got this job, I didn't know he was this good. This is a guy that does a little bit of everything -- he's got skill, he's tough, he can skate. And he's an unbelievable guy, too. He's a fun guy to be around and we're lucky to have him."
Tuesday's win followed up a Rangers loss over the weekend in which New York could only manage one goal against the Calgary Flames on 45 shots. But after showcasing a much different result Tuesday against the Panthers, the Rangers hope to follow a similar game plan Thursday against Chicago.
"I think we were shooting pucks," Zibanejad told reporters. "We were moving it quickly. We took advantage of the way they played. We got shots on goal and pucks to the net and it's not much more difficult than that."
Like the Rangers, the Blackhawks enter Thursday coming off a much-needed bounce-back performance. Brandon Saad scored a pair of goals in a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday that came just two days after a forgettable 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday in which Chicago allowed 55 shots on goal, including a record-setting 33 in the second period alone.
Corey Crawford, who made his third start of the season on Tuesday, finished the game with 24 saves.
As important as it was for the Blackhawks to get back on track in the midst of a three-game homestand, Saad's performance may have been equally vital. Saad had been relegated to the fourth line and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville repeatedly told reporters he needed to see more from Saad.
Saad responded on Tuesday and now hopes to use the two-goal game as a reminder that he can be an effective part of Chicago's scoring attack when needed.
"I thought (Saad) had the puck way more, I thought he took it to the net more and I think his speed was noticeable," Quenneville told reporters Tuesday, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Updated October 24, 2018