March 1, 2012; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Rangers right wing Marian Gaborik (10) skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC center. The Rangers defeated the Hurricanes, 3-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE

Condensed March Schedule Will Be "Madness" For The Rangers

See what I did there? You know you like it.

A hockey schedule may be the most grueling of all the major, professional sports—baseball players do get only one day off a week but they play a non-contact sport. Playing three games in four nights or back-to-back sets can be both physically and mentally exhausting.

How do four back-to-back series sound, along with 17 games in 30 days? That’s exactly what the New York Rangers have embarked upon as the stretch run to the playoffs begins.

The Blueshirts have been the cream of the Eastern Conference crop this season. However, the month of March will show the hockey world exactly what this team is made of. 

The month is off to a good start as the Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes—a team last lost only for the send time since Jan 15—by a 3-2 score with backup Martin Biron turning in a solid effort. The team will need more of that from Biron in order to keep Henrik Lundqvist physically fresh and mentally sharp.

But, the turnaround is quick as the team heads to Tampa Bay to face the Lighting later today and it’s something the team will have to get used until the season ends.

Examining the schedule, of the 16 games remaining in March, eight of them are against teams outside of a playoff spot—two will come against West opponents Colorado and Minnesota. The other six games against non-playoff teams make up the final five sports in the current conference standings.

It doesn’t mean the Rangers’ schedule is “easy” by any stretch.

The other eight games in the month include another contest against Boston, Pittsburgh, two more with New Jersey, and visits from Western Conference powerhouses Chicago (who lit up the team 4-2 on Feb 16), and Detroit.

Sounds easy for the No. 1 ranked defense in the NHL, right?

The only time in March the Rangers will have more than one day off will be in between 2 sets of back-to-back games on March 25-26. It will be imperative for the coaching and training staff to keep all the players as healthy as possible.

However, that notion is difficult to practice as Ryan Callahan is day-to-day with a bruised foot, Michael Del Zotto re-aggravated his hip injury during last night’s game, and Dan Girardi, the team’s work horse, took a shot off his right arm and appeared hurt.

A team short a defenseman can ill-afford to lose not one but two of its top-four defenseman.

There are no lay ups in the March, and the quality of competition will be a daunting task to overcome. But, when doubts arise about the validity of Rangers this season, they always seem to answer them emphatically. The team genuinely hates losing and quickly correct themselves for their next game—a credit to their head coach.

With a crazy month ahead of them, a record of 9-6-2 (20 points out of a possible 34) would give the team 108 points heading into the last week of the season.

All things considered, I think everyone would sign up for that today.

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Tags: Dan Girardi Henrik Lundqvist Martin Biron Michael Del Zotto New York Rangers Ryan Callahan

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