Opponent Blog: Bleedin’ Blue
At the Scottrade Center (8:00 p.m.) tonight, the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues will face-off in another East meets West matchup – something the new proposed realignment plan would bring more of next season. Coming off a 1-0 loss at MSG to the Dallas Stars, the Blueshirts – winners of four straight away from New York – take their (9-4-2) road record (7th best in the NHL) on a three-game road trip.
The Blues enter tonight’s contest ranking sixth in the Western Conference, and have won their last three games. Since Ken Hitchcock took over for Davis Payne, St. Louis has turned their season around, posting an 11-2-3 mark. Of note, the Blues own a superb home record – (11-3-1) 3rd best in the NHL – while boasting the NHL’s best statistical goalie in Brian Elliot (12-2, 1.45 GAA, .947 sv %, four shutouts) and lower GAA than the Rangers (2.03).
Join after the jump for the full pre-game report and 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 and Tim Erixon are healthy scratches.
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:
- MITIGATE MISTAKES: Tonight’s contest has the Dallas game of Tuesday night written all over it: a boring, grind-it-out contest waiting for the first team to blink. The Rangers blinked first last time out, on a sequence of events that lead the only goal surrendered to the Stars. The easiest way to combat this? Force the Blues to play your game, rather than the other way around.
- A RETURN TO FORECHECKING: As captain Ryan Callahan goes, so go the Rangers. He is the focal point of the team and will influence how his teammates play. It’s imperative he gets off to an aggressive start by leading the forecheck – something that’s been lacking for a couple games. The forecheck IS the bread and butter of the Rangers and is vital not only to this game, but every game the team has intentions of winning.
- GET DUBINSKY GOING: When your team is winning, and putting up goals in the process, it masks the deficiencies and the slumps of certain players. Brandon Dubinsky’s season-long slump hasn’t hurt the Rangers…yet. However, you can’t expect one of your core players to continue on as a non-factor offensively. We saw Torts put Dubinsky with Richards and Callahan late in the game Tuesday in an attempt to jump-start him. Look for more of the same tonight.
- WINLESS GOALIES? Interesting stat of the night, both starting goalies for each respective club has not won a game against the opposing team. Brian Elliot is 0-3, 3.00 GAA, .888 sv % lifetime against the Rangers, while Henrik Lundqvist is 0-2, 3.06 GAA .878 sv % in two career appearances. Something’s gotta give tonight, right?
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