The New York Rangers are coming off an absolutely frustrating, in more ways than one, loss to the New Jersey Devils two days ago. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned about this year’s Rangers team, it’s that miserable performances or bad breaks from the past usually are forgotten, if not redeemed, after the next game. Tonight, the Rangers will try to make up for that last loss as well as the one in our previous matchup against the Lightning.
The Lightning have struggled tremendously this season after reaching the Conference Finals last year. However, they’ve been better as of late, going 6-3-1 in their last 10. Let’s look at some pre-game notes as well as what will be important for tonight’s matchup:
Goaltenders: Martin Biron is the man in net for the Rangers, giving Henrik the night off. It will be Biron’s first start against the Lighting as a New York Ranger. In the other end will be Tampa Bay starting (I use that term loosely) goaltender Mathieu Garon. Garon’s had moderate success against the Rangers this year, letting in 5 goals in 2 games played. In his most recent start against the Blueshirts, he helped the Lightning to a shootout victory by letting in only two goals. Nonetheless, as is usual, the Rangers have the edge in the goaltending department.
Stay Out Of The Box: The Lightning are not a difficult team to figure out. They have the NHL’s leading goalscorer in Steven Stamkos and then St. Louis and Lecavalier are their other two great options. After that, it’s a whole lot of nothing. The Rangers’ as a unit are incredibly good at limiting quality shooting chances, and Stamkos specifically relies heavily on receiving the puck on his stick in space and then ripping one on net. The easiest way for the Lightning to get good shots off is with only four New York Rangers on the ice. Stay out and it’s going to be difficult for the Lightning.
Bring Intensity: After the Anisimov Shotgun incident Steve Stamkos said that his team “wouldn’t forget” about it the next time they faced the Rangers. Well, here we are. I have no idea if the Lightning have gotten past that, but if there is still something to it then that’s good for the Rangers. Generally speaking, the more active and intense the game is the better the Rangers play. If the Lightning start anything then the Rangers, without doing anything stupid, should match it.
Brad Richards: The guy said himself that he is “lost offensively.” Perhaps a chance to break out of his slump against his old team will be some extra motivation for him tonight. The Tampa Bay Lightning have the 23rd ranked PK in the NHL so this is a good chance for the Rangers to kill two birds with one stone. Our PP needs to get something going, and our PP has been at it’s best when Brad Richards has been at his best.
Steve Eminger In, Stu Bickel Out: Tortorella has opted to play Steve Eminger for tonight’s game. Bickel is probably our toughest defenseman but that’s not as much of a concern for tonight as it is against divison rivals like the Devils and Lightning. I also don’t think Tortorella was impressed with his string of penalties in the past few games. We will have to see how Eminger looks in his first game back since separating his shoulder in December but I’m happy Eminger, who Tortorella can trust to play more than 8 minutes per game, will be in the lineup.