Apathy or angry, that is the question.
On Wednesday night the Rangers lost to the Blackhawks for the second time this season. This time by the score of 5-2.
Afterwards there was a sense that some of the Blueshirts were very angry over the team’s performance against Chicago, while other teammates were not.
Regardless, the 7th Avenue Skaters need to up their intensity as they head West for a two-game road-trip to Arizona and Vegas.
The team has put forth a “full 60 minute effort” just a handful of times through its’ first 40 games and that won’t cut it.
When the Coyotes came to MSG in October the Blueshirts won 5-2 and Boo Nieves registered his first career NHL point as part of a three-assist night.
Pavel Buchnevich and Michael Grabner were starting to heat up as they each potted two-goals during the game. And Ondrej Pavelec made 27-saves, earning his first win with the Rangers.
This needs to be a two-point game for the Blueshirts. Anything less is unacceptable.
DEEP ROOTED CONNECTIONS
Derek Stepan played his first seven seasons with the Rangers (2010-2017). The Blueshirts selected him with the their second-round (51st overall pick) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Antti Raanta served as the Rangers’ backup goalie for two seasons (2015-16 and 2016-17).
Anthony Duclair played part of one season in New York (2014-15).
Mats Zuccarello: Arguably the best playmaker on the Blueshirts, Zuccarello is one assist away from 200 in his career.
Henrik Lundqvist: The King is the Ranger’s franchise wins leader, and he’s set to add another milestone to his legacy. His next win moves him ahead of Blackhawks legend Tony Esposito for eighth-place on the NHL’s all-time wins list (424).
PLAYER TO WATCH
COYOTES: DEREK STEPAN. The former-Rangers’ centre is having a typically solid season from a production standpoint. His 25-points and 17-assists rank second on Arizona. However, for the first time in his career — barring a miracle trade — he will not be playing in the postseason — the Coyotes sit in last place in the Western Conference.
RANGERS: JT MILLER. The Blueshirts’ hybrid centre/winger is being placed on the top-line in hopes of sparking the team’s five-on-five scoring. His power game should translate nicely as he steps into the spot vacated by Chris Kreider. And he is second on the team with 27-points; three in his last five.
Chris Kreider will undergo surgery to resect a rib as he recovers from a blood clot in his right arm. This procedure is normally used to elevate symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and there is no timetable for his return.
For the healthy Rangers, Alain Vigneault continues to juggle lines in hopes of finding the winning combination.
J.T. Miller is slated to play alongside Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich on the top-line. The hope being that Miller’s power game will help the line replicate the success it had when Kreider was playing.
The second-line consists of Michael Grabner, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello. Following that is the line of Jimmy Vesey, David Desharnais and Rick Nash.
And the fourth-unit remains the same with Paul Carey, Boo Nieves and Jesper Fast.
The top defense pairing is Ryan McDonagh and Nick Holden. Following them are; Brendan Smith and Kevin Shattenkirk — Steven Kampfer rotated in during practice. And Brady Skjei sits on the third-pairing.
Marc Staal sat on Friday with a maintenance day.
No word yet on whether Henrik Lundqvist or Ondrej Pavelec will receive the start in net.
WHERE TO WATCH
The game will be broadcast on MSG Network at 8pm ET. For in-game coverage follow our Twitter account @NYRBlueBulletin.
For the Blueshirts it’s time to put-up or shut-up.
This is game number 41 and the team is neither a clear contender or pretender.
This weekend’s games against Arizona and Vegas are key as the Rangers then head into their bye-week. And they surely want to do so on a high note.
As the Metropolitan Division standings tighten by the day it is imperative the Blueshirts secure as many points as they can.