New York Rangers look to close out road trip with a win….. maybe?

Here we are again, the New York Rangers will look to close out their four-game road trip and three-game West Coast trip with a win, hopefully. They opened up the road trip with a loss to Colorado, ok the Av’s were on a tear and not much was getting in their way, next. They then faced off against the Kings, who at the time were playing terrible and should have been a win, most likely, but they lost, ok time to worry a little. Move to Anaheim, a game that had playoff implications and was a must win, well they lost, a terrible loss. Ok, now I’m worried, and you should be too.

Well, the final game of the road trip the Rangers are 2-6-0 in their last eight games, have dropped the last the three games, and currently sit outside of a wild-card spot. They have been jumped by the Penguins and the Flyers and quite frankly, a playoff spot is bleak right now. The good news is that the Islanders a team they are neck and neck with right now play the Golden Knights in Vegas, so that’s a loss but bad news the Penguins play the Wild on home ice. A loss tonight for the Rangers is concerning, very concerning, heading into the All-Star break.

The Rangers face-off against the San Jose Sharks tonight for a 10:30 PM (EST) puck drop, the Rangers coming into this game are 24-20-5, with 53 points and 6th in the Metropolitan division. The Sharks are 26-14-7, with 59 points and 2nd in the Pacific division.

Rangers key injuries…

The Rangers will be without Kevin Hayes again it seems and since Hayes absence, the Rangers offense has not struggled a whole lot. The absence of Chris Kreider has been that has hurt a bit, the speedy left winger brings a solid physical presence and a spark to this Rangers offense, not something they cannot replace as he does not score a whole lot, but he is a big piece to this puzzle. Again, Kevin Shattenkirk will be out and quite frankly since his absence I cannot complain about the Rangers defense, yes Branden Smith still makes terrible defensive plays and Marc Staal has to now play a bit more, so in that case, it is a loss with Shatty out. The positive side though is we get to Anthony De’Angelo a Rangers defenseman we have not seen much of this year and De’Angelo has two points since joining the team and he brings a certain side to the Rangers defense that not is refreshing. The speedy, offensively talented defenseman brings a spark to that Rangers back end that is needed I believe.

Sharks key injuries…

The Sharks, on the other hand, will be without two pieces that are the glue to this team, veteran leader and top scorer, Joe Thornton. For a 38-year-old forward that has been tallying 60 assists consistently for his career, was finding his way in the goal column more often this year. Thornton over the last month of play Thorton has tallied 6 goals, 5 assists and 5 power play points on the year he has 36 points in 47 games. Another key piece is Martin Jones, Jones has been sidelined for a week or so now and has confirmed to be out with a lower-body injury. It is said not to be serious but, Jones has been the Shark starter for three seasons now and has been the most consistent player for them over the past three years. On the year, Jones has 14 wins, 2.68 goals against, .910 save percentage and 3 shutouts.

Rangers keys to a win…

  1. The Rangers need to get the first goal, in all two of the three games they have lost they have not scored the first goal and have trailed in every single game for a period or more. Getting on the board early is a big key to the Rangers success, especially on the road and dropping the last three games. Getting up early and on the board early will be a huge momentum boost and give this team some confidence.
  2. Special teams battle. First off, staying out of the penalty box is another major key and something that has been their crutch as of late. The Rangers have allowed a power-play goal in every game they have lost in the last three and their penalty kill is not thriving, to say the least. Versus the Kings, they took 21 penalty minutes and allowed three power-play goals. Anaheim they took 12 penalty minutes and allowed one power-play goal. On the year their penalty kill is ranked 16th performing at an 81.5 percent. Secondly, the Rangers power play on this drought and over the past few games has been better, but winning that special team’s battle is important. They have scored a power-play goal in the last three games, but ultimately they have lost the special teams battle which has resulted in losses at the end of the game.
  3. Defensive lapses. Now, when I say this the Rangers cannot afford to take shifts off, make bad turnovers and make any defensive lapses. When I think about this I think the careless turnovers in the neutral zone, the lazy passes out of the zone and just being careless with the puck. The Rangers need to take special care of the puck, they turn over the puck over a decent amount and are a team struggling to win, therefore being careful with the puck in all areas of the ice is important not just for this game but for every game.

Minor NYR news…

The Rangers have some minor news coming out today, they have claimed Cody McLeod off waivers. McLeod is a fourth line grinder that will add very little to the Rangers line up, he is a gritty player that has made a living off banging bodies and causing trouble on the ice. He will more than likely be brought in to protect this team and serve as an enforcer. McLeod is 33-years-old has played in 23 games this season with Nashville and has tallied 3 points. McLeod has spent 12 years in the NHL and 10 of them with one franchise. He has never tallied over 20 points in his career, therefore while the Rangers struggle with scoring this move is a definitely a head-scratcher.

The Rangers know how they have been playing, they know their struggles and they know what they need to do. The only concern I have with this team is another road game against a solid Western Conference opponent and when things are bad for this team, they are ugly. Coach Alain Vigneault is claimed to be on the hot-seat and another loss tonight will surely put him on the spot. Heading into the break on a four-game losing streak, around this team is when teams make personnel changes and for all, we know the Rangers could come back with Lindy Ruff as the head coach, come February 1st vs Toronto.

NYR vs SJS starters…

The starters for tonight will be Henrik Lundqvist who is starting in his seventh straight game and posts a record of 21-13-4 in 41 starts with a 2.61 GAA, .922 save percentage. Lundqvist got yanked last game for allowing three goals on seven shots vs Anaheim. For San Jose it will most likely be Aaron Dell, now while Jones has been out, Dell has been the guy. Over the last his seven starts he has two bad outings but other than that he has allowed 2 or fewer goals and on the year posts a 16-12-3 record in 16 games started, with a 2.32 GAA and .923 save percentage.


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