The Anaheim Ducks will have five(!) scouts in attendance for tonight’s game, and that is surely going to be a point of speculation among Rangers fans and the NHL media as we inch closer to the trading deadline. But you better believe that John Tortorella will have nobody inside the locker room thinking about that or anything other than getting two points against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight.
The Ranges will be looking for their fifth straight win of the season; not an unfamiliar accomplishment for them this season. Meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks, who only a few weeks ago were considered among the elite teams in the NHL, have lost nine games in a row and have fallen all the way down to 6th in the Western Conference (and barely holding on to even that). Obviously Chicago is going to attempt to rectify that tonight and put an end to the Rangers’ winning streak in the process. Let’s look at some game notes.
Goaltending Matchup: In most instances teams are happy to face the backup goaltender, and while I’m sure the Blackhawks would prefer to see Henrik on the bench, Marty Biron is not your typical backup goaltender. Biron is 3-0-1 in his last four starts and has been everything the Rangers have wanted from him. The Blackhawks will go with Corey Crawford, who has struggled heavily in recent games. Crawford has only started two games in February and has a 5.84 GAA and .818 save percentage in those starts. His whole season has been a struggle and it’s gotten to a point where Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has started to play Ray Emery more and more. That being said, the Rangers have a knack for giving struggling goalies reason to believe.
Sharp-Toews-Kane: Not that the Blackhawks don’t have other solid offensive players such as Hossa and Bolland, but Chicago’s top line is where most of Chicago’s ammunition is located. Girardi and McDonagh are about as good of a pairing in the NHL to counter a line like that so I’m not fearful. But the Rangers need to be aware. All five players on the ice are going to need to be responsible positionally in the defensive zone when this line is on the ice. Shut them down and the Blackhawks will struggle to score multiple goals.
Special Teams: The Rangers have a good chance to continue the momentum on the power play tonight. The Chicago Blackhawks have the fourth worst penalty kill in the NHL and Nick Hjalmarsson, one of their best defensive defensemen, is out with a concussion.
Same Lineup: Same lineup for the Rangers tonight as last game, meaning Fedotenko is still out. What is notable here is that Wojtek Wolski is back from his conditioning assignment (as is Jeff Woywitka). Granted, the Rangers have been winning with this same lineup, but I still have to believe that Tortorella feeling fine with having Stu Bickel at forward instead of Wolski tells us what Wolski’s fate is.
Check out our friends at Blackhawk Up for a preview from the Chicago perspective. Let’s hope the Rangers can make it five straight once again.