“We know how we have to play to be successful…need to do that right away and stay away from desperation mode at end of game”- John Tortorella
The New York Rangers will try to get over a couple of tough losses in the past few games tonight when they attempt to get two points at home against the Minnesota Wild. The Rangers played well enough against both Tampa Bay and Buffalo to win, but a combination of great goaltending, unlucky bounces, and questionable referee decisions cost them. To get the two points tonight, the Rangers will have to beat Derek Boogard and Marian Gaborik’s old team, though neither will be in the lineup tonight. Despite a quick start the the season, the Wild have dropped down to 11th in the Western Conference. Of course, the West is extremely tight, and Minnesota is only two points out of a playoff spot. Minnesota has not been much better than the Rangers have in recent games, going 4-5-1 in their last 10. Much of their slump has to do with the injury to Mikko Koivu, who is arguably their best player, and he will be out once again tonight. Let’s look at the keys to the game:
Early Start- The second part of Tortorella’ quote is important always, but especially tonight. The Rangers absolutely have to be on their game right from the beginning. Minnesota has the 2nd best record in the NHL in games they score first. Conversely, the Wild have a .219 winning percentage when giving up the first goal, good for 27th in the league. This game is going to be heavily decided by the first goal, more-so than usual. The Rangers need to come out skating and playing with physicality.
Penalties- Don’t mistake playing physically with taking stupid penalties. A few of the penalties that have been called on the Rangers have been terrible decisions by the referees, but that doesn’t completely excuse the team. The Rangers need to play more disciplined, especially against Minnesota, who has the 8th best power play in the NHL.
Brent Burns- One of the biggest reasons for the Wild’s success on the power play this season is due to Brent Burns, who is honestly one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL. Burns can rip it on the point, showing his ability to do so at the NHL All-Star skills competition, when he blasted one 98.4 MPH. Even worse, it’s accurate as well. The Rangers need to maintain pressure on the points for that reason. Specifically, the Rangers are a great shot blocking team, but unless they can fully get in front of his shot, they’re better off letting Henrik see it through than to deflect it.
Brandon Dubinsky- It would be nice if Dubinsky could get on the scoreboard tonight. After an incredible first half of the season, Dubinsky really hasn’t come back to life since coming back from his foot injury. Aside from the production on the scoreboard not being there, with only 2 goals and 3 assists in his last 13 games, Dubinsky just simply hasn’t looked the same on the ice. He hasn’t been a brutal physical force like he was in the first half of the season. Also, Dubinsky was the one Ranger who was really able to carry the puck through the neutral zone and get into the offensive end with success. He hasn’t done that in recent games, and you can see that it’s affected the team as a whole.
Marc Staal- Though the defense held their own without him, Marc Staal’s presence in the lineup will be welcomed back by everybody. Staal is back after missing a few games due to twisting his knee against Carolina. Staal will be back on the first pairing tonight with Dan Girardi, and will almost certainly be matched up against Minnesota sniper Martin Havlat. It will be interesting to see if Staal is back to full strength, or if Tortorella will ease him in and limit his playing time to below the usual 25 minutes.
Ruslan Fedotenko- Fedotenko also will be back in the lineup tonight after re-injuring his shoulder against Washington. Tortorella and Sullivan have complained about the Rangers’ inability to establish a forecheck early on the past few games, and Fedotenko’s presence should help that out. For this reason, Fedotenko has been one of the more unsung hero’s of this year’s team. Fedotenko will be with his usual counterparts, Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust. They should be effective in forechecking tonight, as always.
Lundqvist of course in net tonight. He is 2-2 over his career against the Wild, but most of the damage done to him was when Gaborik was a member of the team. The Wild will start Jose Theodore, who has resurged his career in Minnesota after some unimpressive years with the Avalanche and Capitals. Former Ranger Jed Ortmeyer was called up by Minnesota but it hasn’t been announced whether he will be in the lineup or whether Casey Wellman, also just called up, will play instead. Wellman was called up due to concern that Cal Clutterbuck, who was the victim of Islanders “hockey player” Trevor Gillies’ cheap shot yesterday, would not be able to play tonight. Matt Cullen also makes his return to MSG.
Topics: Brandon Dubinsky, Brent Burns, Casey Wellman, Forechecking, Henrik Lundqvist, Injuries, Jed Ortmeyer, John Tortorella, Marc Staal, Martin Havlat, Matt Cullen, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, Niklas Backstrom, Rangers, Ruslan Fedotenko, Wild