Rangers @ Hurricanes
RBC Center, 7:00 p.m. Tuesday
Rangers record: 31-26-4
Hurricanes record: 28-24-8
To say that every game from here on out is crucial for the Rangers’ playoff hopes would be redundant. But with 64 points to the Rangers’ 66, the Carolina Hurricanes are literally right behind the Rangers in the Eastern Conference standings. The Rangers take another two-game losing streak into Carolina on Tuesday, and with a newly depleted roster, the team will need to bring even more energy and determination to come away with a much-needed four-point cushion over Carolina.
To add injury to insult, the Rangers lost Marian Gaborik to a concussion after the first period of Sunday’s loss to the Flyers. Reports are that Gaborik sustained the concussion in a previous game, and this would certainly explain his recent on-ice struggles. The Rangers have recalled grinder Kris Newbury from Connecticut to fill Gaborik’s space on the roster. Newbury—who was called up last week as a precaution when Wojtek Wolski left the game against the Penguins with a rib injury—may seem like an interesting choice, since it is unlikely that he will compensate for lost offense, especially with Ruslan Fedotenko and Chris Drury still out of the lineup. In light of this, John Tortorella will most likely count on the line of Wojtek Wolski, Mats Zuccarello, and Derek Stepan-- which was one of the best lines in Sunday’s loss and produced both of the Rangers’ goals—to play an even larger offensive role going forward.
The Carolina Hurricanes are coming off of a tough Saturday loss to the streaking New Jersey Devils. The Rangers’ power play has improved lately, but they will certainly feel right at home against a team which has scored only one power play goal in its last twenty-seven opportunities, going 0 for 15 along that stretch. Despite their power play woes, the Canes boast a roster of several offensive juggernauts, including captain Eric Staal and eighteen-year-old Jeff Skinner, who leads all rookies in assists (24) and points (46). Staal’s 27 goals are good for ninth in the league, and he leads his team with 58 points. Right-winger Erik Cole, another homegrown talent, has been a clutch player for the Canes throughout the season, with the second most game-winning goals in the league. (Eric Staal is right behind him on the stats list, with six game-winners.)
All-Star goalie Cam Ward will start again in net for Carolina. Newly acquired Derek Joslin played in Saturday’s game in place of injured defenseman Joni Pitkanen, but Pitkanen is expected to be back for Tuesday’s game, so the defensive lineup for the Hurricanes remains questionable.
The Hurricanes have not yet lost to the Rangers in regulation this season, and the Rangers’ recent 2-7-1 slide does not scream of confidence. Once again caught without their captain and their star forward, the Blueshirts will have to find a way to grind through for the win.