Kings @ Rangers
Madison Square Garden, 7:00 p.m. Thursday
Rangers record: 30-24-4
Kings record: 31-22-3
The Rangers had another four-day break between games to dwell on an important, morale-boosting win. New York’s defeat of a depleted Pittsburgh squad is key to the team’s current playoff push and, hopefully, a sign that the dreadful six-game losing streak is now just a thing of the past.
The Los Angeles Kings will continue their cross-country trek to New York City after tonight’s game against their conference rivals, the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Kings are currently out of a playoff position, but they are, interestingly enough, one point ahead of the Rangers in the league standings. The Kings are a young, skilled, Western Conference team on the rise, and while the Rangers were entering their 2-6-1 slide, the Kings were posting a triumphant 7-0-2 record and earning ten out of a possible twelve points in their last six games.
Prior to tonight’s game against the Blue Jackets, the Kings enjoyed a 1-0 defeat of the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Flyers. Twenty-one year old defenseman Drew Doughty scored the only goal of the game to bring his point total to 29, and team points-leader Anze Kopitar tallied an assist. Kopitar, who gained fame in the beginning of last season for his onslaught of goals, recently only recorded one goal in a twenty-game stretch, but his 36 assists are good for eighth in the league. Last but certainly not least, the Kings’ captain and Ithaca, New York native Dustin Brown has been a steady goal scorer and leader for his team both on and off the ice.
One of the keys to the Rangers’ 5-3 win over the Penguins last Sunday was the 75% power play efficiency. Unfortunately, Wojtek Wolski, who has been playing the point on the power play, will sit out of Thursday’s game in order to rest his tweaked rib muscle. Mats Zuccarello will slide into his spot on the power play, and Kris Newbury was called up from Connecticut to fill Wolski’s space on the roster. Led by the dynamic duo of Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, the Rangers exploded with five unanswered goals after going down 2-0 early in the first period. However, the defense on Sunday was certainly not up to par, and Tortorella has decided once again to scratch Steve Eminger and give struggling youngster Michael Del Zotto another shot.
The Kings’ starting goaltender, Jonathan Quick, earned his sixth shutout of the season against the Flyers on Sunday, and is just one shutout behind league-leading Henrik Lundqvist and Boston’s Tim Thomas. The Rangers will probably end up facing-off against L.A. back-up Jonathan Bernier so that Quick will be well-rested for intra-conference games, but even Bernier’s record is nothing to scoff at. While inter-conference games tend to carry less importance, every single point at this juncture in the season is absolutely critical, and both the Rangers and the Kings will be looking to come away with two tomorrow night.