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4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET23:00 GMT7:00 4:00 PM MST6:00 PM EST3:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ETNaN:� BRT, October 5, 2017
Madison Square Garden, New York, New York  Attendance: 18,006

Rangers hoping to get defensive vs. Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche at New York Rangers

  1. The Rangers swept a pair of games from Colorado last season, improving New York's record to 5-1-2 versus the Avalanche since 2013-14. However, the Avalanche have gone 10-4-0-0 when facing the Rangers in New York since 1998-99.
  2. The 2016-17 Avalanche opened 9-9-0 through 18 games, but collapsed thereafter, going 13-47-4 the rest of the way. The Avalanche finished with the fewest points in the league (48) and the franchise's worst point percentage (.293) since moving to Colorado in 1995.
  3. The Rangers totaled at least 100 points for the third consecutive season in 2016-17 (102), tying the longest such stretch in franchise history (1971-72 to 1973-74). New York also has finished with a point percentage above .500 in each of the last 12 seasons, the second-longest active streak in the league (San Jose, 13).
  4. Colorado forward Mikko Rantanen, the 10th overall selection in the 2015 draft, was one of only three NHL rookies who led their teams in goals last season. Rantanen's 20 goals were the fewest by any team leader in Avalanche history (excludes strike-shortened seasons).
  5. Henrik Lundqvist enters 2017-18 with 403 career wins, the 10th most in NHL history. He needs two more to tie Glenn Hall for ninth on the all-time list. Lundqvist's 11 seasons with at least 30 wins are the third most ever by any goalie.
  6. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who was born in New Rochelle, New York, has joined the Rangers following a season in which he set career highs with 43 assists and 56 points. It was Shattenkirk's fourth straight year with at least 40 points.

The New York Rangers are coming off a third straight 100-point season and looking to build toward a championship; the Colorado Avalanche were so bad last season that it's almost impossible for this season to be worse.

The two teams will open their seasons against each other at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night in New York.

The Rangers overcame a shoddy defense in 2016-17 to reach the second round of the playoffs, where they were upset by the Ottawa Senators in six games. GM Jeff Gorton revamped the back end by buying out Dan Girardi and signing the offensively gifted Kevin Shattenkirk to a massive contract.

Henrik Lundqvist endured his worst season last year since entering the NHL in 2005-06, so the Rangers are hoping Shattenkirk's presence helps fortify the defense and take pressure off the veteran goaltender.

"I think as soon as you get labeled as an offensive guy, they just assume you can't play defense a lot of times," Shattenkirk said to the New York Daily News. "I'm in a new place now and it's up to me to prove that and make sure I can live up to that side of the job as well, which is the most important part of being a defenseman.

"Everyone plays in different ways. I'm not a guy who's a bruiser and gonna throw guys off of pucks, but as long as you're effective and keep the puck out of your net, I think that's what most important."

The biggest offseason changes for New York occurred with one trade designed to create cap space, dealing top center Derek Stepan and backup goaltender Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes. The Rangers filled the hole left by Stepan from within the organization but had to sign former Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec to back up Lundqvist.

"I've really liked his work ethic in practice," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said to the New York Daily News of Pavelec. "So far, he's been improving, and he's proven in the past that he's a real good goaltender and I'm confident he's gonna do that with us this year."

The Avalanche managed 48 points last season, the lowest total since the expansion Atlanta Thrashers totaled 39 points in 1999-2000. Matt Duchene was rumored to be on the trade block throughout the season and then the summer, but he remains on the roster as this season begins.

How his tenuous presence affects the Avalanche remains to be seen.

"I can't really say where his head's at," Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson told The Denver Post. "He's coming to practice every day, working hard, showing up. Whatever he feels, he's kept to himself so far. As long as he's here, he's part of our team and he has to play hard for us."

The only reason to have hope in the Avalanche turning things around is Semyon Varlamov, the team's No. 1 goaltender who missed most of last season after having hip surgery. He hadn't had a save percentage worse than .914 during the three seasons before last year's injury-riddled one, so after an offseason that saw Colorado make no major changes, he's the key to any improvement.

"He looks like he's in a good mood, and I like Varly in a good mood," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said to The Denver Post. "You look at 2013-14, a lot of us want to get back to the way we played that year. Varly can get there. We want a healthy Varly, a Varly who can steal games for us. But we know there's more to it than that. We know we can play good team defense in front of him."

Updated October 4, 2017

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