(26-15-4, 56 points) (28-11-4, 60 points)
Opponent Blog: Predlines
For the first time since the calendar turned to 2012, the New York Rangers are facing a slight amount of adversity – losses in two of their last three games. Tonight, they return to The Garden to take on the red-hot Nashville Predators – winners of five straight with an 8-2 record in their last 10 games.
Despite some recent minor struggles, the Rangers still have the most points in the NHL, as they find themselves locked in a three-way tie with the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues at 60 points each. The Rangers are coming off a disappointing loss in Montreal on Sunday night as the Canadiens cruised to a 4-1 win at the Bell Centre.
Nashville, meanwhile, arrived in the Tri-State area yesterday and left Long Island with a 3-1 victory over the Islanders in a Martin Luther King Day matinee at the Nassau Coliseum. Nashville currently sits sixth in the Western Conference with 56 points while finding themselves in fourth place in the Central, but just four points behind Chicago and St. Louis, both currently tied for first.
Projected rosters and keys to victory after the jump.
Injuries: Michael Sauer (concussion), Steve Eminger (shoulder), and Jeff Woywitka (foot) all skated in the morning practice today, but they remain OUT for tonight’s game. Brandon Dubinsky (shoulder) and Ruslan Fedotenko (back spasms) are expected to return to the lineup tonight. C Kris Newbury was sent back down to the AHL’s Connecticut Whale yesterday.
KEYS TO VICTORY
- GET BACK ON THE SCORE SHEET – With the exception of Saturday night’s 3-0 win in Toronto, the offense has quietly found itself in a sort of “mini-funk”. Counting that game, the Rangers have only scored six goals in their last four games, with three coming Saturday night. Part of that has to do with solid efforts from Phoenix’s Mike Smith and Ottawa’s Craig Anderson in goal, but Montreal’s Peter Budaj, the backup to Carey Price, was not tested often on Sunday night. The Rangers must take advantage of the fact that Pekka Rinne will not be in goal for Nashville, after he stopped 37 of 38 shots on Long Island yesterday. Anders Lindback is a solid backup goalie, but he’s far from a world-beater.
- WIN SPECIAL TEAMS – It goes without saying that the Rangers’ power play needs to get going. Ranked 23rd in the league, their last power play goal came courtesy of Ryan Callahan on January 5 against the Panthers. Nashville does not struggle quite as much on the man-advantage. Their power play ranks third in the NHL, clocking in at an extremely efficient 21.4%. Fortunately for the Rangers, they can counter that with a strong penalty kill – something not unfamiliar around these parts. The Rangers are presently sixth in the league with an 86.5% penalty kill.
- DON’T LOOK AHEAD – Between an always-intense divisional matchup with Pittsburgh on Thursday night, the first of four matchups this season with the Bruins Saturday night in Boston and the week-long All-Star Break starting next Wednesday, it’s somewhat understandable to just bypass the Nashville Predators on a Tuesday night in a building that likely won’t be nearly as loud as it will be even two days from now. But these are some of the most pivotal points that you can get looking back on the season when the calendar switches to April. The last time the Predators were at MSG was on a night similar to this two years ago when a blizzard left the Garden half-empty and the Rangers’ effort matched that of the crowd. It showed on the last day of the season that two points missed in any game, even one such as that, means a lot. A win tonight would do a lot for their confidence in putting the memory of Sunday’s abysmal loss in the rear-view mirror.