The New York Rangers are still trying to sort out their offense after acquiring Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane before the trade deadline and will continue the process when they visit the Florida Panthers on Saturday in Sunrise, Fla.
For now, the Rangers (42-20-10, 94 points) are playing Tarasenko with Artemi Panarin and center Mika Zibanejad for a dynamic top line.
Zibanejad leads New York with 37 goals and ranks second in points (79). He is also the hottest Ranger over the past six games with five goals and 11 points during that span.
The Panthers are 0-2-0 against the Rangers this season, losing 5-3 in Sunrise and 6-2 in New York, and Zibanejad has four goals in those two games.
Panarin leads the Rangers in assists (58) and points (82). He had the tying goal and winning assist in New York's 2-1 victory at the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
Tarasenko, who played his first 10 1/2 seasons with the St. Louis Blues, has five goals and 14 points in 21 games with the Rangers.
In total, he has just 15 goals this season. That's low for a player with six 30-plus-goal seasons.
"I don't think everything works yet," Tarasenko said when asked about his Rangers line. "We're making progress, but I don't think this is the best we can do."
New York's second line is star-studded, too, with Kane; Chris Kreider, who is second on the team with 32 goals; and Vincent Trocheck, a former Panthers star who is fifth on the Rangers with 19 tallies.
The Rangers are 7-1-1 in their past nine games, and a lot of that has to do with goalie Igor Shesterkin (33-12-7, 2.55 goals-against average). He is three wins short of his career high, set last year.
One issue for the Rangers, however: Defenseman Ryan Lindgren has missed 12 of New York's past 13 games due to an upper-body injury.
Florida's injury concern is with forward Sam Bennett, who scored a career-high 28 goals last season. He has 16 goals this season, but he has missed two straight games with an undisclosed injury.
While the Rangers are solidly in the playoff picture, things are more precarious for Florida.
The Panthers (36-29-7, 79 points) are just one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
After three straight victories, the Panthers have dropped two in a row and are desperate for points.
"We just have to get a win (against the Rangers)," said Matthew Tkachuk, who leads the Panthers in assists (62) and points (97). "We have to do everything it takes. Hopefully we get help (from other teams), but we're in the race."
Carter Verhaeghe leads the Panthers with a career-high 36 goals. He is on a seven-game points streak with four goals and six assists during that span.
Tkachuk, who is second on the Panthers with 35 goals, is also on a seven-game points streak. He has seven goals and nine assists during that span.
Center Aleksander Barkov on Saturday is expected to pass Stephen Weiss for second place in career games played by a member of the Panthers. It will be game No. 655 for Barkov.
Sergei Bobrovsky has been Florida's No. 1 goalie this season, posting a 24-18-3 record and a 3.03 GAA. That's on pace to be his highest GAA since 2019-2020.
--Field Level Media