Before the Rangers and Columbus ever became Metro Division tenants, the two franchises were going to be forever linked due to the blockbuster trades which saw beloved players switching sides and fans left with mixed emotions.
So when the NHL announced that the two teams, which have virtually flip flopped rosters, were going to be competing for playoff spots in the same division this season it seemed like the perfect match for an instant rivalry.
Surprisingly, the first three games between the new intra-conference foes earlier this year were fairly benign with Columbus taking two of those ultra vanilla contests.
No Artem Anisimov giving Henrik Lundqvist the shotgun treatment after scoring a goal or Derek Dorsett challenging the entire Columbus bench to a fight. Instead, the games had the feel of two teams with zero history or hatred.
Expect that all to end at 7 p.m. With three weeks to go in the season and the two teams tied in points (78) for the final Metro Division playoff spot, which would allow them to avoid the wild card and a likely date with the Bruins in the first round, I’m anticipating tonight’s game to have a playoff type intensity with lots of chippy play.
Here’s former Rangers goaltender and current Blue Jackets President John Davidson on the budding rivalry…
“Maybe we’ll play each other in the playoffs. Wouldn’t that be fun. With all these different players who used to be in Columbus now with the Rangers and all the players who were in New York now with the Blue Jackets. There’s a lot of good people whether it be in management or coaching or playing the game who all sort of know each other. These games are intense. They mean a lot. We want games that mean so much at this time of year and that’s exactly where we are right now.”
Meanwhile the former captain and face of the Blue Jackets franchise Rick Nash will make his long awaited return to Columbus as a Blueshirt…
“I’m not sure what to expect. Me and the fans here have been through so much together, so if I get cheers, great, if I get boos–and I’m sure there will be some–I will move on from that.”
Finally former Blue Jackets head coach and current Rangers assistant coach Rick Arniel discusses his time in Columbus as well as Nash’s influence on that franchise…
…with the Blue Jackets, Flyers, Devils and Lightning (Callahan with game winning power play goal) all victorious last night, this game sure has the feel of a must win for the Rangers.
…Devils, Islanders, Flyers…Blue Jackets? As strange as it may seem, Rangers fans could very quickly find themselves with the same level of hatred towards the neutral city of Columbus that they have for the locales of the Blueshirts more traditional rivals.
…i’m really interested to see if the affinity that Rangers Nation still has for Dubinsky and Anisimov dissipates after tonight’s grudge match. Although, a Columbus win in which both players excel could have the Blueshirts Faithful lamenting the loss of those two more than ever.
…Nash has had his moments as a Ranger, but a signature game is still missing from his resume on Broadway. How great would it be for him to finally put a stamp on his arrival in New York with a performance for the ages in the thick of a playoff race in his old stopping grounds? Nash, who scored twice in the last match-up against his former team, had a nice confidence boost in Ottawa, now it’s time for him to build on it. And for God’s sake can he drive to the net!!!!!
…wouldn’t be a bad time for Martin St. Louis to remember he’s Martin St. Louis either.