This seems like a slam dunk game, but it won’t be. It’ll be difficult for a few reasons, even though the Wilds lost to the Islanders last night. They’ll be all intent on playing good, hard road hockey, and that usually presents a problem for your heroes, who have enough trouble scoring and playing at home.
And there is a difference between a must game and a game a team has to win. The Rangers have to win games like this because there are only so many softies left on the schedule — softies being a relative term since no team is really a pushover anymore, especially when you have a hard time scoring more than twice.
But, again, this is a game the Rangers need to get. If they don’t, it’s still not the end of the world — though I’m quite sure and confident it will be treated as such here. They just need to beat teams like the Wilds and the Senators and the Islanders and Panthers and Thrashers down this stretch here.
Here are the pre-game notes, from the Rangers:
NEW YORK RANGERS vs. MINNESOTA WILD
Thursday, Mar. 3, 7:00 p.m.
Madison Square Garden • New York, NY
Rangers: 33-28-4 (70 pts)
Wild: 33-24-6 (72 pts)
* All information through NHL games on Mar. 1
The Rangers will conclude their three-game homestand when they face-off against the Minnesota Wild at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in the first game of a back-to-back set. The Blueshirts currently rank third in the Atlantic Division standings, and seventh in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 33-28-4 (70 pts). The Rangers enter the contest having been defeated by the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The Wild have posted a record of 33-24-6 (72 pts) to rank 10th in the Western Conference entering their contest last night at Long Island, and have registered a point in four of their last six games (3-2-1). Following the contest, the Rangers will face-off against the Ottawa Senators on Friday, Mar. 4, at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m.), in the second game of a back-to-back set.
- TV: MSG Network
6:30 p.m. – Rangers Pre-Game Show with Al Trautwig and Mike Keenan
7:00 p.m. – Rangers vs. Wild
Broadcasters: Sam Rosen (Play-By-Play), Joe Micheletti (Analyst), John Giannone (In-Game Reporter)
· Radio: 1050 ESPN Radio and newyorkrangers.com
6:30 p.m. – Rangers Pre-Game Show
7:00 p.m. – Rangers vs. Wild
Broadcasters: Kenny Albert (Play-By-Play), Dave Maloney (Analyst)
RANGERS vs. WILD:
- All-Time: 8-4-0-0 overall (4-1-0-0 at home; 4-3-0-0 on the road)
- 2010-11: Tonight’s contest marks their second and final meeting this season, and the first at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers own a 1-0-0 record thus far, following a 5-2 victory at Minnesota on Nov. 20.
- Last Season: New York was 0-1-0 vs. the Wild, following a 3-2 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 30.
- New York is tied for 24th with a 14-15-3 (31 pts) record at home; Minnesota ranks ninth with a 17-11-3 (37 pts) mark on the road
- The Rangers are 4-2-0 vs. Northwest Division opponents; the Wild are 2-2-0 vs. Atlantic Division opponents
- Henrik Lundqvist is 2-2-0 with a 2.87 goals against average in four career regular season appearances vs. Minnesota
- Wojtek Wolski has tallied a team-high, 12 assists and 15 points in 29 career regular season contests vs. Minnesota; Dan Girardi has recorded three assists in four career regular season games vs. the Wild
- New York lists two former Wild on their roster: Derek Boogaard (2005-06 – 2009-10); Marian Gaborik (2000-01 – 2008-09)
- Minnesota lists one former Ranger on their roster: Matt Cullen (2006-07)
The Blueshirts have posted a plus-nine rating on special teams (PPG+SHG minus PPGA+SHGA) this season, which is tied for fifth in the league.
- Power Play: The Rangers tallied one goal in three power play opportunities (4:34) on Tuesday vs. Buffalo, and are now 11-55 (20.0%) with the man advantage in their last 14 games. New York ranks 22nd overall (39-232, 16.8%) and 19th at home (22-121, 18.2%). The Rangers are 2-10 (8:17) in five-on-three situations (last – 2/22 at CAR), and 0-4 (5:41) when four-on-three (last – 3/1 vs. MIN). Shorthanded goals allowed (4): 11/20 at MIN (Cullen); 12/5 vs. OTT (Kelly); 1/2 at FLA (Weiss); 1/16 vs. PHI (Richards).
- Penalty Killing: The Blueshirts surrendered two goals to the Sabres in three shorthanded situations (3:51) on Tuesday at MSG, and have allowed only nine power play goals against in the last 23 games (64-73, 87.7% over the span). New York is tied for ninth overall (183-219, 83.6%) and ranks 17th at home (83-100, 83.0%). The Rangers are 7-10 (7:21) in three-on-five situations (last – 2/27 vs. TBL), and 4-6 (2:41) when three-on-four (last – 11/15 at PIT). Shorthanded goals for (10): 10/9 at BUF (Dubinsky); 11/5 at NJD (Dubinsky); 11/15 at PIT (Staal); 11/24 at TBL (Boyle); 11/26 at FLA (Prust); 12/5 vs. OTT (Prust); 12/12 vs. WSH (Staal); 12/16 vs. PHX (Prust); 1/7 at DAL (Fedotenko); 2/27 vs. TBL (Prust).
- Four-on-Four: New York did not tally/yield a goal in one four-on-four situation (0:42) on Tuesday vs. Buffalo, and are now plus-three in 49, four-on-four situations (98:57). The Rangers are even in one, three-on-three situation (2:00) this season (2/17 vs. LAK). Four-on-four goals for (5): 10/18 vs. COL (Frolov); 11/11 vs. BUF (Anisimov); 11/15 at PIT (Callahan); 12/12 vs. WSH (Callahan); 1/5 vs. CAR (Zuccarello). Four-on-four goals allowed (2): 10/15 vs. TOR (Kessel); 1/1 at TBL (Thompson).
New York has posted a record of 10-5-0 in 15 games vs. Western Conference opponents this season. Their 10 wins rank first among Eastern Conference teams, while they are tied for first with a .667 winning percentage and second with 20 points vs. the West.
NEW ACT ON BROADWAY
On Saturday, the Rangers acquired defenseman Bryan McCabe from Florida, in exchange for forward Tim Kennedy and a third round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. McCabe has eclipsed the 40-point plateau five times, including three seasons of 50 or more points, and was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 2004. The 15-year NHL veteran skated in his 1,000th career game on Nov. 6, 2009 vs. Washington, and was named Florida’s captain on Sept. 23, 2009. McCabe made his Rangers’ debut on Sunday vs. Tampa Bay, and recorded his first point as a Blueshirt with a power play assist on Tuesday vs. Buffalo.
The Rangers will begin their 15th of 18 back-to-back sets tonight vs. Minnesota. New York is 9-5-1 (3-1-0 at home, 6-4-1 on the road) in the first game of back-to-backs. The Blueshirts are 10-5-0 (4-2-0 at home, 6-3-0 on the road) in the second game this season, having out-scored their opponent, 39-25, in those games. Over the last two seasons, New York is 19-7-2 in the back-end of back-to-back sets, including an 8-3-1 mark at MSG and 11-4-1 on the road over the span.
New York has posted a record of 7-19-3 when trailing after the second period. The Rangers’ 17 points lead the league, while their seven wins are tied for first in the NHL and their .241 winning percentage ranks third. The Blueshirts have out-shot their opponent, 162-89, in the third period of their last 14 games.
COMPARED TO LAST SEASON…
The Rangers have posted four more wins and four more points compared to last season through 65 games (29-28-8, 66 points in 2009-10), having tallied 12 more goals (181 this season, 169 last season) while allowing 17 fewer goals against (160 this season, 177 last season). New York has also shown a five-goal improvement while shorthanded compared to 2009-10 (10 this season, five last season).
AMONG THE LEAGUE LEADERS
The Rangers lead the league in hits (1,846), are tied for first in shorthanded goals (10), second in blocked shots (1,028), rank fifth in road wins (19), seventh in goals against (160), is tied for ninth in penalty killing (83.6%), and rank eighth with a plus-21 goal differential.
The Blueshirts have skated in 33 one-goal games this season, which is tied for fourth most in the league, having posted a record of 17-12-4 in those contests. Their 17 wins are tied for sixth in the NHL. Twenty of the Rangers’ last 27 games have been decided by one goal, including 10 of their last 13 home games.
The Rangers have had 18 different players credited with at least one game winning goal this season, which is the most in the NHL.
THE HOT LIST:
- Ryan Callahan has recorded 10 points (six goals, four assists) in the last 13 games, including eight points (four goals, four assists) in the last eight contests
- Vinny Prospal has recorded six points (two goals, four assists) in the last nine contests
- Wojtek Wolski has tallied a point in three of the last five contests (two goals, one assist over the span)
- Brandon Prust has registered three points (two goals, one assist) in the last four games
- Ryan McDonagh has tallied three assists in the last five games
Henrik Lundqvist posted his 200th career win in a 4-3 shootout win vs. Los Angeles on Feb. 17, becoming only the fifth goalie in franchise history to reach the 200-win mark. He currently ranks fourth on the Rangers’ all-time wins list (202).
YOUTH IS SERVED
The Rangers have the sixth youngest team in the league with an average age of 26 years and 210 days, and the youngest defensive corp in the league with an average age of 24 years and 328 days. *based on NHL rosters on Jan. 11
- Steve Eminger: 1 game from 400 NHL career
MILESTONES RECENTLY ACHIEVED:
- Henrik Lundqvist: 200th career NHL win (2/17 vs. LAK)
· Derek Boogaard (injured shoulder on Dec. 9) – 35
· Alex Frolov (injured knee on Jan. 8, expected to be sidelined for the remainder of the season) – 22
· Chris Drury (injured knee on Feb. 4, 6 weeks) – 11
· Marian Gaborik (concussion-like symptoms) – 4
· Marc Staal (knee strain on Feb. 22, day to day) – 3
· Ruslan Fedotenko (injured shoulder on Feb. 25) – 2
· Martin Biron (fractured collarbone on Feb. 28) – 1
Total Man-Games Lost: 253
· Feb. 26: Acquired defenseman Bryan McCabe from Florida in exchange for forward Tim Kennedy and a third round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft
· Feb. 26: Assigned defenseman Michael Del Zotto to Connecticut (AHL)
· Feb. 28: Acquired forward John Mitchell from Toronto in exchange for a seventh round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft
· Feb. 28: Recalled goaltender Cam Talbot from Greenville (ECHL)