When: Thursday, December 1, 7:00 p.m.
Opponent: @ Carolina (8-14-4)
UPDATE: Marc Staal spoke with reporters early this afternoon and indicated that he plans to play this season but that his return is still a long way off. Staal said that the doctor ordered shutdown that kept him away from physical activity for a month was very difficult and that his conditioning suffered as a result. Staal also mentioned that playing last year was his decision. (12:49 p.m.)
UPDATE: Andre Deveaux has cleared waivers and the Rangers re-assigned him to the Whale. (12:30 p.m.)
UPDATE: Marty Biron will start tonight for New York. Mike Rupp took part in the morning skate wearing a white non-contact jersey. Marc Staal also skated on his own. (11:52 a.m.)
EARLIER: In the past a letdown might be expected after consecutive
wins over Washington, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
But if the 2011-2012 Rangers (13-5-3) are to continue making
the hockey world believe they are elite, then Thursday’s contest against
Carolina is a game they should win.
The Hurricanes, predicted by most to be a borderline playoff
team before the season, have gotten off to a terrible 8-14-4 start and have
lost four games in a row.
Carolina management was so displeased with its performance
at the quarter mark that the organization fired Coach Paul Maurice on Monday
and replaced him with Kirk Muller, who had been the head man for the AHL’s
The Rangers and Hurricanes have met once previously this
season, a 5-1 victory in New York that was the sixth of seven straight
victories earlier this month.
In the contest, Sean Avery scored his first goal of the
season to the delight of the Madison Square Garden crowd and the Blueshirts
exploded for four third period goals on Cam Ward, who has been nearly
impenetrable against New York in recent years.
Prior to the five-goal outburst, Ward had put up these
numbers against the Rangers across the last three seasons:
2010-2011: 2-0-2, 2.18 GAA, .945 save percentage
2009-2010: 2-2-0, 1.49 GAA, .954 save percentage
2008-2009: 2-1-1, 1.72 GAA, .944 save percentage
But Ward has struggled this season along with backup goalie
Brian Boucher. The two have combined to
allow the 28th most goals per game in the NHL and their struggles are
representative of Carolina’s early-season play.
Indeed it’s hard to find an area where the Hurricanes are
thriving. Carolina ranks 24th in goals
scored, 29th on the power play and 26th on the penalty kill.
By contrast, the Rangers are firing on all cylinders.
The club has picked up the highest percentage of possible
points earned in the league and has won 10 of its last 12 games.
Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron have been brilliant in
goal and New York’s undermanned defense has been more than up to the challenge
of playing without Marc Staal.
Better yet, the recent recalls of Carl Hagelin and John
Mitchell have suddenly given the Rangers four quality lines, each capable of
contributing offensively and each showing strong defensive responsibility.
Many around the hockey world looked at the brutal stretch
that concluded on Tuesday as a sure reality check for the Blueshirts, but so
far its been the team that has given us all a wake-up call.
- New York placed Andre Deveaux on
waivers Wednesday after the forward completed his three-game
suspension. The emergence of Hagelin and
Mitchell has pushed Deveaux from the roster and he’ll likely be assigned to
Connecticut on Thursday.
- Marc Staal, Wojtek Wolski and Mike Rupp accompanied the team
to Carolina as they continue to
work with the Rangers’ training staff.
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