Welcome to the NHL’s version of Lambeau Field.
The Bell MTS Place doesn’t have the history Lambeau Field has. But it does have the same frigid temperatures.
The forecast for the start of the game is a bone-chilling five degrees fahrenheit. And while the game will be played indoors, it’s a rarity when a hockey arena is warmer inside rather than out.
And the Blueshirts are praying they packed enough clothes to keep warm.
Correction, the Rangers don’t want to be warm. They need to get hot.
A come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Calgary won’t mean much if the Rangers fail to capitalize on the momentum of their win.
There’s just over two weeks remaining until the NHL’s annual Trade Deadline. And the Blueshirts high-command already admitted they have an eye on the future, rather than the present.
“It’s going to force us into some decisions now to think long-term,” stated G.M. Jeff Gorton. “And we need to start to try to rebuild and build a Stanley Cup contender.”
While many will buy that as the Rangers giving up on the season, that’s not the case.
The Blueshirts are merely saying they are trying to get younger, faster and more skilled. They want to build for the future. But if the future happens to blossom earlier than expected, then the Rangers could still make the playoffs.
And for that to happen, they need to get hot. And stay hot.
Otherwise, it will be long, cold trek to the end of the season.
DEEP ROOTED CONNECTIONS
Ondrej Pavelec spent parts of 10 seasons with the Thrashers/Jets franchise (2007-2017), and is the franchise’s all-time leader in wins (152), shutouts (17), and appearances by a goaltender (379).
During the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the Rangers and Thrashers made a trade. The Blueshirts acquired the 12th overall pick in exchange for the 16th and 41st overall picks. With that pick, the Rangers selected Marc Staal. Meanwhile, the Thrashers took Ondrej Pavelec with the 41st overall pick.
Mats Zuccarello: The scrappy winger is six goals away from 100 in his NHL career.
Rick Nash: The veteran winger is two points away from 800 in his illustrious NHL career.
J.T. Miller: The skilled former first-round draft pick has always shown tremendous poise with the puck. And his playmaking abilities have him closing in on 100 career assists; he’s two away.
Mika Zibanejad: The Rangers’ top-line center is six goals away from 100 in his NHL career.
PLAYER TO WATCH
JETS: BLAKE WHEELER. The Jets’ captain leads his team in scoring with 59 points. And he has five points in his last five games. A key part of being captain is leading your team on the ice. And Wheeler is certainly doing that as Winnipeg sits in second place in the Central Division. And he’s on pace for a career-high in assists to boot.
RANGERS: RICK NASH. Can you spell hot? With nine points (eight goals) in his last 11 games, Nash is doing everything he can to convince management to keep him. Conversely, every goal he scores increases his trade value. And who wouldn’t want a player that is second in the league in goals since January 16th?
Injuries, injuries and more injuries.
Joining Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, and Marc Staal on the sidelines are Ryan McDonagh and Ondrej Pavelec.
McDonagh sat out Friday’s win over Calgary with a lingering upper-body injury sustained against San Jose and is not traveling with the team on this road trip.
Pavelec started against the Flames Friday night and was removed from the game after the first period with a knee injury.
Their absences hurt, but it also opens the door for John Gilmour and Neal Pionk to show the coaching staff what they’re made of.
“With the injuries we have guys are getting the chance to show they can handle expanded roles,” said Alain Vigneault.
And with Pavelec out, the Rangers called up goalie Alexandar Georgiev from Hartford to serve as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup.
However, there is some good news.
Jimmy Vesey returned to practice Saturday morning and appears to be all systems go against Winnipeg.
WHERE TO WATCH
The game will be broadcast on MSG Networks at 3 pm ET. For in-game coverage check out our Twitter account @NYRBlueBulletin.
These two teams exist on separate planes.
Winnipeg is second in the Central Division while the Rangers reside in the cellar of the Metropolitan Division.
But there’s still plenty of time for them to swap spots.
There’s a saying in hockey, “those who are hottest and healthiest at the end go far.”