Rangers @ Hurricanes
RBC Center, 7:00 p.m. Thursday
Rangers record: 27-18-3
Hurricanes record: 22-18-6
The Rangers didn’t look injury ridden or offensively challenged as expected last night at the Garden. They need to ride the offensive wave of their 7-0 dominating win over the Maple Leafs as they get right back to work against the Hurricanes tonight in Raleigh.
The Hurricanes are reeling from a home-and-home series loss to the Bruins this week which included a 7-0 pounding in Boston and a tight 3-2 loss in Carolina where they outshot the B’s 45-28.
The Rangers have managed to claw their way through tough games and tough times but have yet to do so with the consistency necessary to solidify a serious playoff run. They haven’t been able to get a winning streak of more than three in a row yet this season. Now is the time to pounce while the Canes are down.
With leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky (out 3-4 weeks, stress fracture left leg) and essential power forward Ruslan Fedotenko (out 2-4 weeks, ACL sprain) added to the ever growing injured sideline yesterday, sniper Marian Gaborik will especially be leaned upon. Gaborik’s scoring touch seemed to be reignited as he netted four goals with line mates Sean Avery and Artem Anisimov, who combined for seven assists last night.
Another multi-point performance might be the best confidence boost as he’s had two other hat tricks followed by dry spells this season.
Martin Biron should get the start in net to give Henrik Lundqvist a breather as the Rangers play four games in six nights before the All-Star break.
Hurricanes’ captain Eric Staal was chosen to be one of the All Star game captains. The question seemingly on everyone’s mind: will he or won’t he choose his brother, Rangers’ defenseman Marc Staal to his squad? Every time the brothers’ face off, it’s a hardnosed battle between the shutdown D-Staal and the scoring center Staal. Tonight will be no different.
Head coach John Tortorella was smart to limit the ice time of his top defensemen (Dan Girardi, Staal) and lean on Chris Drury’s fourth line more in last night’s rout to help keep his key players fresh for the upcoming schedule.
If Chad Kolarik and Brodie Dupont are anything like their fellow Connecticut Whale call-ups (Mats Zuccarello, Kris Newbury, Ryan McDonagh, Dale Weise) they’ll seamlessly fill in the blanks.
The Hurricanes are 1-0-1 against the Rangers this season. Last time the two teams met, the Rangers squeaked by with a 2-1 win in overtime thanks to rookie Zuccarello. It wasn’t easy beating Cam Ward who was sharp with 33 saves. The Rangers will need to get shots to the net early and often to get him off his game.