Rangers vs. Hurricanes
Madison Square Garden, 7 pm
Rangers Record: 24 - 22 - 7
Hurricanes Record: 16 - 28 -7
The Rangers must win tonight. Plain and simple.
It may be cliche and obviously the Rangers aren't out of the playoff picture with a loss tonight given the number of games remaining, but in hockey, there are games that are bigger than the statistics.
Heck, that's why the Rangers - Islanders rivalry has sustained over the years despite each teams performance, or lack thereof.
Tonight is not a rival game nor is it even a divisional game.
Tonight is a confidence game.
The Rangers need a boost. With a miserable last 10 games, 3 - 5 - 2 and being shutout four times, New York can't afford to roll over against the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
Granted, Carolina has the potential to put together a tough game. Led by newly-captained Eric Staal and Stanley Cup goaltender Cam Ward, the Hurricanes are not going to just fold.
In their last meeting in early January, Carolina defeated the Rangers 2 - 1 in OT.
But tonight the biggest threat to the Rangers is themselves. They cannot second guess themselves, take a shift off, or rely on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to carry them through the game.
All 18 skaters need to play a complete 60 minutes of intense hockey exhibiting quick puck movement, decisive passing, and hardnosed play in front of the crease.
As Sean Avery told Larry Brooks of the NY Post, this teams effort has been a joke and cannot continue.
If the Rangers can put forth a complete effort, right before they embark on a major West Coast road trip, it could be a turning point in the season. Leave on a positive note, take some time to grow as a team and have success outside of your building and Conference, then come back with confidence, passion, and a clear understanding of what lies ahead.
If not, make way for more of the same inconsistency and frustration as the first half of the season.