Rangers @ Lightning
St. Pete Times Forum, 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Rangers record: 22-14-2
Lightning record: 22-11-5
The Rangers are riding a two-game winning streak since losing to the Lightning in a lengthy shootout at the Garden last Thursday. However, those wins came against two teams which have as many points combined as the Rangers have total, so these victories are nothing to gloat over. Furthermore, the defensive turnovers that plagued the Blueshirts against the Islanders Monday night continued to be an issue against the Devils two days later. Saturday, after another two-day break, the Rangers will face a still hot Lightning team in the hopes of opening up the New Year with a win.
The dangerous duo of Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis continues to dominate for the Lightning, scoring a combined forty-seven goals and accounting for nearly forty percent of the team’s goal total. Stamkos has since been eclipsed for the league lead in goals by Sidney Crosby, but he is closing in once again after a tremendous four point night (2G, 2A) against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. Stamkos also became the sixth NHL player to reach one-hundred goals before his twenty-first birthday. Right winger Ryan Malone has been consistently putting up points on this line, and he now has twenty-one points in his last twenty-one games. Longtime Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina scored the game winning goal for his second of the season and his fourth point in four games, after only tallying one point for the entire month of November. His goal placed him in the record books for the most goals by a Lightning defenseman.
Despite the Lightning’s record breaking goal scorers and high position on the standings, the team still has a minus-two goal differential and is desperately in need of a solid goaltender. Dan Ellis, who constantly frustrated the Rangers through sixty-five minutes of play and eleven shootout rounds last Thursday, may face off against New York again on Saturday night. However, rookie goaltender Cedrick Desjardins turned in an impressive performance last night, turning aside twenty-seven shots to win his NHL debut.
The Rangers flew into sunny Florida today without key members on the roster; Ryan Callahan, Vinny Prospal, and Derek Boogaard are slowly but surely making their recoveries. The newest addition to the Rangers’ IR is Erik Christensen, who is reportedly out 4-6 weeks with an MCL sprain, and will be sorely missed should the Lightning take the Rangers back to the shootout tomorrow. Dale Weise, who made a positive impression on Coach Tortorella the last time he played, was called up from Connecticut to replace Christensen. In practice today, Weise skated on a line with Chris Drury—who is still looking for his first goal this season—and Sean Avery.
The Rangers maintained a solid 41-30-8 record throughout the calendar year of 2010. Let’s hope the Blueshirts can kick off 2011 the right way with a well-earned win in Tampa Bay!