Rangers @ Thrashers
Philips Arena, 7:00 p.m. Saturday
Rangers record: 27-19-3
Thrashers record: 23-18-8
The Rangers can’t get in an offensive groove and the Thrashers are having trouble keeping the puck out of the back of their net.
Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec has given up four or more goals four times in his last six games. The shaky goaltending trend started on January 7 when the Thrashers fell 9-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team has lost five of their last six, their latest being a 3-2 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Brandon Prust had the lone goal in the Rangers 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. The Rangers couldn’t solve the Cam Ward problem. Marian Gaborik had just two shots on goal -- a weak sequel to his performance against the Leafs on Wednesday.
Signs of fatigue showed on defense with Staal and Co. getting caught out of position. Coach John Tortorella attributed the defensive collapse to some sloppy play by his forwards.
Rookie Chad Kolarik looked solid, however, in his Rangers’ debut.
Last time the teams met in October, the Thrashers came out on top 6-4 at the Garden.
With a fierce shot, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien leads the Thrashers in points and NHL D-men in goals with 16, though he’s been held without a point his last seven games. His partner, Tobias Enstrom is second on the team with 40 points. The tandem won’t be easy to maneuver around or stop.
They’ll be without forward Ben Eager who was traded to the San Jose Sharks for a fifth round draft pick on Tuesday. Picked up in the off season from the defending Stanley Cup champ Blackhawks, Eager racked up 77 penalty minutes and a suspension for punching Colby Armstrong but not much else.
Since Atlanta’s penalty killing unit is ranked 29th in the NHL, the Rangers power play must maintain pressure and get quality shots on net. Taking advantage of power play opportunities will be key to victory in a time when goals and rest are hard to come by.
Captain Chris Drury is long overdue for a goal. He hasn’t netted one yet this season and has just four points in 18 games. While he may log most of his minutes on the fourth line with the latest Connecticut Whale call ups, he needs to step up and find ways to inject some energy in his depleted squad.