The Rangers have been nearly flawless in the 2nd games of back-to-back’s. Tonight is a different situation though, as the Rangers will be playing for the first time since Friday against the Penguins. The Rangers have won 9 of their last 10 games, but will their form and momentum falter with a large gap between games? If there is one consistent issue for the Rangers this season, it’s that they often fail to play with conviction the first 10 or so minutes of a game and sometimes end up in a hole because of it. So let’s hope a gap between games doesn’t add to that.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, are out of the playoffs as of now in the Western Conference and are only 4-4-2 in their last 10 games. However, the Coyotes play much better on the road (12-9-2) than at home (8-8-3) and surely they’ll want to make up for the Rangers’ dramatic victory in Phoenix in December. Let’s look at some game notes:
Play Physical: The Rangers have the 20th ranked PP and 5th ranked PK. The Coyotes have the 29th ranked PP and the 12th ranked PK. Special teams is in favor of the Rangers in basically every possible way. Furthermore, the Coyotes are the 4th most frequently shorthanded team in the NHL. A physical game only benefits the Rangers. Either the Coyotes try to stay disciplined and the Rangers dominate the game physically, or the Coyotes try to match it and take penalties. If the Rangers end up taking a few as well then so be it. Ultimately, the more physical the game is the more likely momentum will be on the Rangers’ side, and even if both teams end up with an equal number of powerplay opportunities it’s in favor of the Rangers due to superior special teams play.
First Period: As I’ve already noted, the Rangers have struggled in the first period this season and the break does not help the situation. The Phoenix Coyotes are 22nd in the NHL in goals scored but are 14th in first period goals. The first period has statistically been the best for the Coyotes this season. The Rangers can not afford to coast early in the game.
Marian Gaborik: There are not many teams that Marian Gaborik doesn’t do well against, but he is particularly productive against the Phoenix Coyotes. Since joining the Rangers, Gaborik has five goals in four games against the Coyotes and has 13 total goals against them in 12 games during his career. Last game we saw that Phoenix’s defense was no match for Gaborik’s speed. Can he continue his dominance of the Coyotes and with a good game tonight?
Dubinsky-Richards-Callahan: Prior to being put together, all three of these guys had some sort of offensive struggles. Since then, they’ve been a very productive line. Dubinsky has 8 points in his last 8 games. Callahan is on a 7 game point streak. Richards has 3 goals in his last 4 games. The Rangers are an incredibly dangerous and difficult to defend team when they can get production from their top two lines. The top line has been productive basically the whole season, but can our second line continue to establish itself or is it just a flash in the pan? A strong game from them tonight would be nice.
Phoenix Injuries/Scratches: David Schlemko (lower body), Martin Hanzal (upper body), Adrian Aucoin (eye), Paul “BizNasty” Bisssonnette (healthy)
Rangers Injuries/Scratches: Steve Eminger (shoulder), Michael Sauer (concussion), Jeff Woywitka (healthy), Erik Christensen (healthy), Wojtek Wolski (healthy)
Goaltender Matchup: Mike Smith (16-11-4 2.43 GAA .922 Save %) VS. Henrik Lundqvist (18-7-4 1.89 GAA .939 Save %)