Rangers vs. Senators
Madison Square Garden, 7:00 p.m. Thursday
Rangers’ record: 40-30-4
Senators’ record: 27-37-9
The Rangers are finally clicking at home and just in the nick of time. Riding a season best five-game winning streak, the Rangers will face a familiar type of opponent tonight – a team with nothing to play for. The Ottawa Senators sit in last place, just below the Florida Panthers, who the Rangers defeated 1-0 on Tuesday night.
It was not an easy win and the Blueshirts shouldn’t expect one against the Sens. They’ll have to continue to muster up the same energy and determination they’ve displayed over their stretch of seven wins in their last ten games.
Henrik Lundqvist is nonchalantly easing his way into the Vezina discussion by leading the league in shutouts (10) and is in sixth place with 32 wins. (Three goaltenders ahead of him are tied for first place with 34 wins and two are tied for second with 33.) He’s in top form and seems ultra focused despite having to carry the load down the home stretch.
While Lundqvist seems fit to make his 19th consecutive start, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coach John Tortorella opts to give Chad Johnson a go to give Lundqvist a breather.
The Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan duo – as they’ve been all season – has been the sparkplug on offense and defense. They attack and battle until the puck ends up in the back of the net. A bloody cut to the nose didn’t hold Callahan down who was key in the Rangers third period outburst against the Penguins on Sunday. He has seven goals and seven assists in his last eight games. Dubinsky has two goals and four assists to mark a four game point scoring streak.
If Marian Gaborik and Erik Christensen return again from their “slumber”, expect an explosive performance by the Rangers’ offense. Brian Boyle had some great opportunities on Tuesday and is also due for a goal.
Steve Eminger is logging some serious minutes with Dan Girardi and has held down the fort since Marc Staal sat out with an undisclosed injury.
The Senators blew a 2-0 lead against the playoff hungry Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday and lost 4-3. They’ve won six of their last ten games. Center Jason Spezza and defenseman Erik Karlsson lead the team with 44 points. Goaltender Craig Anderson (lower body injury) and forward Milan Michalek (broken foot) are expected to return to the Sens lineup tonight. Anderson is 6-4-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average since being traded to Senators in February.
If the Rangers stick to the “grind it out”, workhorse, game plan they should leave New York with another a set of much needed points to secure a playoff berth.