It hasn’t taken long for Mats Zuccarello(notes) to make an impact for the surging New York Rangers. Now, the diminutive rookie will try to help them win in St. Louis for the first time in more than five years.
Coming off a pair of game-winning goals, Zuccarello looks for another big effort when the Rangers conclude their season series with the Blues on Saturday night.
New York (24-15-3) signed the 5-foot-7 Zuccarello after he was MVP of the Swedish Elite League last season, leading the league with 64 points in 55 games. The left wing also impressed with Norway at the Olympics in Vancouver nearly a year ago, getting three points in four games for an overmatched team.
Zuccarello had 13 goals and 12 assists in 33 games for Connecticut of the AHL before he was called up last month. He has a goal and two assists in seven appearances for the Rangers, but his production has been timely.
Zuccarello had the only shootout goal in Friday’s 3-2 win at Pacific Division-leading Dallas, two nights after netting his first NHL goal with 1:51 remaining in overtime to clinch a 2-1 victory over Carolina.
“That’s good stuff,” coach John Tortorella said of Zuccarello’s game-winning shootout tally. “No nerves, he just does his job, I think it’s terrific.”
Five of the wins during the Rangers’ 7-2-2 stretch have been in come-from-behind fashion. They overcame two deficits Friday.
“There’s no panic,” Tortorella said. “That’s a good sign for a pretty young team, to keep on playing and stay with our concept.”
New York is in for a stiff test against the Blues (20-13-6), who are 14-5-2 at home.
The Rangers have dropped their last two visits to St. Louis since a victory Dec. 10, 2005. They lost 2-0 at home to the Blues on Nov. 7, as their overall losing streak in the series reached four.
St. Louis has dropped two straight overall, following Sunday’s 4-2 home loss to the Stars with a 6-5 shootout defeat at Toronto on Thursday.
The Blues will likely need a better effort from their goaltender. Jaroslav Halak(notes) was pulled for the second time this season in the second period Thursday after allowing four goals on 19 shots. He made 23 saves in the loss to Dallas on Sunday.
Halak has won four of his last five starts against the Rangers, compiling a 2.78 goals-against average with one shutout. He wasn’t in net in November, when backup Ty Conklin(notes) made 27 saves to improve to 4-1-0 with a 2.60 GAA in his last five meetings with New York.
Halak should be familiar with Zuccarello, who scored against him and added an assist in Norway’s 4-3 loss to Slovakia in the playoff round at the Olympics.
He has three goals and two assists in his last three meetings with the Rangers.