Rangers @ Sharks
HP Pavilion, 10:30 p.m. Saturday
Rangers record: 35-30-4
Sharks record: 39-22-7
The eighth-place Rangers teeter on the edge of playoff extinction following Wednesday night’s game against the Ducks. Whether or not the ninth-place Hurricanes win tonight, the Rangers must grab every point they can get—even against a superior Western Conference team—in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Blueshirts followed up a seven-goal blitz against the Philadelphia Flyers with a flat, 5-2 loss to the Ducks late Wednesday night. Brandon Dubinsky finally broke a long goal-scoring drought and Marian Gaborik tallied an important power play goal, but Dubinsky, Gaborik, and the rest of the team were unable to capitalize on any further chances. On a positive note, Dubinsky joined Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle in the twenty-goal scorers department, which is certainly indicative of each of those players’ performances this season.
The three successive “lucky” goals that Anaheim scored resulted from throwing the puck towards on net, something that the Rangers did not do much of Wednesday night. The Blueshirts were overall outworked, and after two intense practices in San Jose on yesterday and today, the team is ready to give a full, sixty-minute effort on Saturday night.
While the Rangers’ last game was perhaps one of their worst of the season, San Jose is coming off of one of their best. In a shoo-in candidate for game of the year, the Sharks lost in a shootout Thursday night to the league-leading Canucks, rallying back from a two-goal deficit in the second period and tying the game twice in the last two-minutes to bring the game to overtime.
The Rangers’ points leader, Brandon Dubinsky, is tied with San Jose rookie sensation Logan Couture for forty-five points. The Sharks have five players with forty-six or more points, including household names such as Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Ryan Clowe, and Joe Pavelski. Despite the Rangers’ impressive +26 goal differential, the Sharks certainly have the more skilled roster offensively, and Henrik Lundqvist (who, it appears, may be starting for the rest of the season) will have to be at the top of his game.
The Sharks will undoubtedly be pumped up after their tremendous game on Thursday night, but the Rangers will have to start from scratch and come out strong against a gifted San Jose team. With the standings shuffling nearly every day, the Rangers need to grab all of the points they can get in order to ensure a post-season position.