Preview: This is the final game before the NHL’s three-day, no-practices, no-games holiday break. After Friday, the Wild will next convene Tuesday morning for a flight to Nashville to play that night. The Wild is 2-7 all-time at the Garden. In those seven losses, the Wild has scored 12 goals, and that includes blowing a 4-1 third-period lead en route to a 5-4 regulation loss Oct. 27, 2014. The Rangers, who lost 7-2 to Pittsburgh in their last game, are 12-5-1 at home and have won six of their past eight overall.
Players to watch: Wild G Darcy Kuemper might get the nod. He was in net during that third-period meltdown in New York two years ago. He won his last start vs. Arizona and is 3-2-1 with a 2.97 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. This will be C Eric Staal’s first return since leaving there as a free agent for Minnesota. He has 26 points in 46 career games vs. the Rangers. Former Minnesota Mr. Hockey Ryan McDonagh owns 10 points (2-8-10) in eight meetings against his hometown Wild. C’s Derek Stepan and Kevin Hayes are tied for the team lead with 23 points.
Numbers: The Rangers, who lead the league with 23 wins, are third in goals for with 3.23 per game and sixth in goals against at 2.31 a game.
Injuries: Wild C Erik Haula (lower body) and LW Zach Parise (ill) are out. Rangers C Mika Zibanejad (fibula) and LW Rick Nash (groin) are out.