The New York Rangers will look to extend their season-high win streak to six games tonight as they face the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have been firing on all cylinders in recent games. Even last game against Florida, which was scoreless for most of the game and was perhaps the most boring game of the season, you could just tell that the Rangers were inevitably going to take the lead at some point. To extend the win streak, the Rangers will have to defeat the team they started the streak against, Ottawa Senators. The Senators are not too different from the last time the Rangers saw them. They’re still at the bottom of the league, and they’re still waiting for the offseason so that they can start the rebuild. However, while they haven’t been world-beaters, they’ve still put up a fight recently, going 6-4-0 in their past 10 games. The road team has won all 3 match ups between the two teams this season, so the Rangers will have to break that trend tonight to get the win. Let’s look at the pre-game notes:
Henrik Lundqvist- Poor Henrik keeps getting beat up. Marc Staal blasted a shot at practice yesterday that hit Lundqvist in the mask, knocking him over. He’s fine, though, and will get yet another start tonight. If Tortorella is starting Lundqvist again tonight against a team like Ottawa, then that basically signals that he’s not going to get a rest until a playoff spot is clinched. The last time these two teams faced the Rangers won by a pretty big margin, but don’t let that mislead you. There were many times that Ottawa had a chance to get back into the game but Henrik shut them down. The Senators don’t have anything to lose really, so they’ll likely put in a quality offensive effort. This is another game where ideally Henrik doesn’t have to be great, but he should be prepared regardless. Lundqvist has a 2.02 GAA and .925 SV % in his 3 starts against Ottawa this year.
Craig Anderson- Anderson will be in goal once again for Ottawa, this time with a brand new contract. The Rangers put up 5 goals on him last time, but that doesn’t fairly tell of his play, which was solid enough. Anderson has been VERY good with Ottawa, posting a 2.11 GAA and .938 SV %. I would think that he’s going to want to make up for the 5 goals from last time, regardless of how at fault he was.
Sergei Gonchar- The hockey gods seem to be giving the Rangers some consolation gifts the past few games after inflicting the team with injuries the whole season. Like last time, Alfredsson and Regin will not play. Tonight, Sergei Gonchar won’t be in the lineup for the Senators either after suffering a concussion. Gonchar scored the lone goal for Ottawa in the 5-1 result last time, and despite his play dropping the past few seasons as his career winds down, he’s still one of the best defenders Ottawa has.
Duballahanisimov- They’re one of the hottest lines in hockey right now. The three homegrown forwards have combined for 13 goals the past 8 games and all three have been stellar in the defensive zone as well. The last time the Senators and Rangers faced each other, Dubinsky was attempting to get his game back after looking lost for a while, and Anisimov was just beginning to start his hot streak. Now, Ottawa is going to likely focus on this line specifically, as there have been no signs that they plan on slowing down any time soon.
Power Play- For once, one of Sather’s trading deadline acquisitions on defense is working out very well. Since the Rangers added McCabe, the powerplay has been producing at a rate above 30%. To put that into perspective, no team in the NHL is even at 25% for the season. While it’s not likely to continue to be that effective, the point is that McCabe is making a difference, and the Rangers have moved from among the worst PP’s in the league to 13th within weeks. The penalty kill is one of the Senators’ biggest strength’s though. They have the 12th ranked PK in the league and have been successful 94% of the time in their past five games. The Rangers will have to move the puck but also move bodies around to break Ottawa’s PK units. Traffic in front is going to be vital with a goalie like Anderson in the opposing team’s net.
Marc Staal- After missing two games with a mystery injury, Staal is back in the lineup tonight. There’s no player or line that he’s specifically needed badly for, but clearly adding an All-Star defenseman is a good thing. Staal will be paired with Girardi on the first pairing as usual. Eminger did play well when he was given the opportunity once Staal game down, and Tortorella has rewarded him by keeping him in the lineup tonight, moving back to the bottom pairing with McCabe. Gilroy will be scratched.
Avery is the forward scratch again tonight, which I believe is a bit curious given how invisible Wolski has been recently. Wolski did have a good game against Ottawa last time, though, so maybe that’s Tortorella’s thinking. The game starts at 7:00 and will be on MSG. Make sure to go to SenShot for the Ottawa perspective on tonight’s game. They seem to be incredibly concerned about our power play. When’s the last time anyone has said that about us? 2006?