New York Rangers start west coast swing in Anaheim


Rangers, Ducks both need important Wednesday night match up

With just about a month remaining in the season, it is crunch time for both the New York Rangers and the Anaheim Ducks. For the Rangers, a losing stretch could mean a drop into Wild Card territory. For the Ducks, falling behind the Los Angeles Kings any further could cost them the Pacific Division crown.

The Rangers come into tonight’s contest treading water and losing ground fast. With a 5-4-1 record over their last 10 games, they have been caught by the New York Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division behind the Washington Capitals. Both clubs have 85 points, but the Islanders not only have the tie-breaker, but currently have a game in hand in the standings as well.

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In an attempt to give the blue shirts a boost, winger Rick Nash is being reunited with his former line mates Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. The latter leads the team in points with 53 and the former leads the team in goals with 25. It is hoped that reuniting the trio could give the struggling Rangers the offensive boost they so desperately need.

Tonight is the first half of a back-to-back, as the team heads to Los Angeles to play the Pacific-leading Kings on Thursday night. That means your starting goaltender for tonight’s game will be backup Antti Raanta, with Henrik Lundqvist getting the start tomorrow night. Raanta will need to make sure he is on his game and build on his last outing, a strong performance against the Buffalo Sabres.

The Rangers are totally healthy for the first time all season as Tanner Glass, fourth-line forward, returns to the lineup.

On the Anaheim side of the fence, their fortunes have swung a bit. They ripped off 11-straight victories before dropping an overtime decision to the likely President’s Trophy winners in Washington. After losing a pair, they shelled the New Jersey Devils on Monday night by the score of 7-1.

The Ducks will be without defensemen Kevin Bieksa and Sami Vatanen due to lower-body injuries, however.

Getting the start in goal for the Ducks is All-Star John Gibson, getting the nod for Frederik Andersen who has started the past two outings. The Ducks have the fortune of turning to a pair of very good netminders on a nightly basis. They are currently four points back of the Kings for the Pacific lead and need to be as good as possible if they hope to take the division crown.

The Rangers need to be wary of the line of Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano tonight. The line is coming off a 10-point night, including the first NHL hat-trick for Silfverberg.

Next: Rangers weekend woes continue

This is going to be a tough road swing for the Rangers. Squaring off against the Ducks tonight, Kings tomorrow and the San Jose Sharks to finish off the Pacific swing on Saturday night. This stretch could go a long way towards determining their positioning in the Eastern Conference playoffs and if they can not only top the Islanders, but hold off the surging Pittsburgh Penguins (currently the first wild card position) as well.