“I’m starting to feel it come now. I feel comfortable being here and living here. The best is ahead of me.”
– Brad Richards via The New York Post
Opponent Blog: Blackout Dallas
The New York Rangers will look to win their third straight game as they host the Dallas Stars tonight. At the moment, the Rangers sit in fourth place in the competitive Eastern Conference – and one point behind the conference leading Philadelphia Flyers – coming off weekend wins against the Sabres 4-1 in Buffalo Saturday and the Panthers 6-1 at MSG on Sunday. The red-hot Blueshirts have earned at least one point in 16 of their last 19 games, posting a 14-3-2 record in that span.
Meanwhile, Dallas comes in leading the Pacific Division, and third in the Western Conference. Tonight’s game will mark Dallas’ first visit to The Garden in nearly two years. In their last visit on January 6, 2010, Dallas dropped a 5-2 decision to the Blueshirts. Of note, Sean Avery notched four points (one goal, three assists) in that contest. Tonight, Avery is a healthy scratch.
This evening’s contest will also mark Brad Richards’ first game against his previous club since he signed with the Rangers as a free agent last July 2nd. Richards enters play tied with Marian Gaborik for the team lead in points with 25.
Join after the jump for the full pre-game report, including the keys to victory.
INJURIES: Wojtek Wolski (sports hernia), Mike Rupp (knee), Marc Staal (concussion), and Michael Sauer (concussion) are all OUT for tonight’s game. Sean Avery is a healthy scratch.
Artem Anisimov – Derek Stepan – Marian Gaborik
Ruslan Fedotenko – Brad Richards – Ryan Callahan
Carl Hagelin – Brian Boyle – John Mitchell
Brandon Dubinsky – Erik Christensen – Brandon Prust
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto – Steve Eminger
Jeff Woywitka – Anton Stralman
KEYS TO VICTORY:
- TEST THE GOALTENDING: Whether its Richard Bachman making his 2nd career NHL start (he’s coming off a 2-1 W Saturday against the Kings) or career journeyman Andrew Raycroft (5-3-1, 3.03 GAA, .900 sv% in 11 career games against NY), the Rangers need to attack a Dallas Stars team without it’s #1 goalie, who are 3-3 without Kari Lehtonen.
- GET YOUR SHOTS: The Stars are averaging 32.6 shots against per game (worst in the NHL). The Rangers are 9-1 when they outshoot their opponents. The numbers indicate a potential mismatch; it all comes down to execution.
- AVOID THE LETDOWN: Not for the reasons you think. Despite their injuries, the Stars are still a solid team so that isn’t the issue. It’s a matter of them being a Western conference opponent, meaning the Rangers may have difficulty with their intensity and focus throughout the game. Solid preparation and motivations can counteract any thoughts of a letdown.
- POWER(FUL) PLAYS: New York has notched a power play goal in eight straight home games (10-40, 25.0% over the span), moving up to third in the NHL at home (13-56, 23.2%). Dallas is 12th on the road on the PK (83.3%), but is the 7th most penalized team on the road (120 times shorthanded). The Rangers will get their chances; they’ll need to bury them.
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