It’s time for the New York Rangers to put up or shut up.
To this point of the season, the Blueshirts have been consistently inconsistent. And that’s not a good thing.
While this team is still very much alive in the playoff race, there’s an artificial deadline on its’ ability to realistically contend.
February 26, 2018 is the NHL’s annual trade deadline and speculation is rife regarding what the Rangers’ status will be.
Right now the team is neither a clear buyer or seller. But that could change quickly.
The first two games of the Blueshirts’ current roadtrip haven’t gone the way they would have liked.
Consecutive losses to Colorado and Los Angeles have the Broadway Blueshirts trending in the wrong direction.
But fear not Rangers’ fans, for there’s still hope.
With matchups against the Ducks and Sharks looming, the Blueshirts can still salvage their roadtrip.
While four points out of eight doesn’t sound great, it’s better than nothing.
And in the tightly packed Metropolitan Division race, every point matters.
DEEP ROOTED CONNECTIONS
Steven Kampfer was drafted by the Ducks in the fourth-round (93rd overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Rick Nash and Antoine Vermette were teammates in Columbus during parts of four seasons (2008-2012).
Alain Vigneault coached Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler for seven seasons when he was the Canucks’ Head Coach (2006-2013).
Mats Zuccarello: The scrappy winger is closing in on more career milestones. He is six goals and four points away from 100 and 300 respectively in his NHL career.
David Desharnais: The diminutive center is two games away from 500 in his NHL career.
Rick Nash: The veteran winger is six points away from 800 in his illustrious NHL career.
PLAYER TO WATCH
DUCKS: RICKARD RAKELL. The 24-year-old right-winger is having a typically solid season. And he’s Anaheim’s leading scorer to boot. Rakell has 14 points in his last 13 games and has been the lone constant for the injury-ravaged Ducks this season.
RANGERS: J.T. MILLER. The dynamic winger/center-hybrid has been scuffling of late. With two points in his last seven, the Rangers need more from Miller. But this is a matchup that Miller likes. In seven career contests against the Ducks, J.T. has three multi-point games. And he currently leads the Blueshirts in road points this season. All of that equals a promising matchup for the young veteran.
The Rangers got some good news prior to their loss to Los Angeles. Marc Staal and Michael Grabner were deemed fit enough to return to the active lineup.
Next up on the watch list is Kevin Hayes, who continues to skate on his own and could return any day.
Meanwhile, Kevin Shattenkirk had successful surgery on his torn meniscus Monday and is out indefinitely. And Chris Kreider is no closer to returning.
The rest of the lineup should remain the same. And we’ll find out if Henrik Lundqvist or Ondrej Pavelec is starting after the Rangers’ morning skate on Tuesday.
WHERE TO WATCH
The game will be broadcast on MSG+ at 10 pm ET. For in-game coverage check out our Twitter account @NYRBlueBulletin.
Slowly but surely reinforcements are coming.
Marc Staal and Michael Grabner have returned and Kevin Hayes isn’t far off.
If the Blueshirts can hold down the fort until the cavalry arrives, then they can still end up being buyers at the deadline.
And a well timed move or two by the Rangers’ high-command could prove to be a boon to their playoff hopes.