When: Thursday, December 15, 8:00 p.m.
Opponent: @ St. Louis (17-9-3)
UPDATE: Andrew Gross reports that Mike Rupp expects to be back in the lineup on Saturday or next Tuesday. Gross also reports that Marc Staal seems very encouraged by his progress and skated much harder today. The next step for Staal is to hit the weight room to regain his strength. There is still no timetable for his return. (2:05 p.m.)
UPDATE: Mike Rupp again took part in contact drills. Wojtek Wolski and Marc Staal participated in the morning skate with non-contact jerseys. (1:19 p.m.)
UPDATE: Henrik Lundqvist will start in net. The Rangers will dress the same lineup, meaning Tim Erixon will indeed be a healthy scratch. (11:38 a.m.)
EARLIER: On Thursday the Rangers visit St. Louis riding a four-game
road winning streak to take on the red-hot Blues who are an impressive 11-3-1
at the Scottrade Center.
St. Louis fired Coach Davis Payne after a disappointing
6-7-0 start, but since then the Blues have been nearly unbeatable. Coach Ken Hitchcock has led St. Louis to an
11-2-3 record since taking the reins on November 6th and the Blues have climbed
from the depths of the Western Conference standings rapidly.
They now trail Chicago for the Central Division lead by just
five points and though Hitchcock deserves much of the credit for righting the
ship, the Blues have been buoyed all season by goalie Brian Elliott.
Elliott became an afterthought following four mediocre
seasons with Ottawa and 12 starts a year ago in Colorado, but he’s emerged this
season as one of the league’s top netminders.
Elliott has posted a 12-2-0 record to go with a 1.46 GAA,
.947 Sv% and four shutouts. Tim Thomas
didn’t approach those numbers in his 2010-2011 season for the ages, so it’s not
difficult to see why the Blues have thrived.
And when you consider Elliott’s career numbers: 73-55-16,
2.75 GAA, a .906 Sv%, it’s easy to see just how well the 26-year-old has
Few goalies in the league can match Elliott’s league-leading
ratios, but Henrik Lundqvist is having yet another banner year himself.
The King is 12-6-4 with a 2.03 GAA, a .933 Sv% and two
shutouts this season and considering the overall improvement of the Blueshirts,
he could be on the way to his first Vezina Trophy.
Lundqvist expects to be healthy enough to play following a
scare on Tuesday night when he was hit in the shoulder by a Sheldon Souray
“I’ll be focused on the game, not the pain,” he told Pat
Leonard on Wednesday.
The real difference in this game could come from the
Rangers’ newfound explosive offense, which was held off the board by rookie
Richard Bachman in its last outing but had poured in 10 goals in two games over
New York’s 10th-ranked attack should hold a distinct
advantage over the 25th-ranked Blues’ offense, which is even worse on the power
play at 29th overall.
Don’t expect the Blueshirts to light St. Louis up with one
of their four-goal periods, but New York’s firepower could be enough to help
Lundqvist edge Elliott in this epic goalie duel.
- The Rangers recalled defenseman Tim Erixon from Connecticut
on Wednesday, making many wonder whether he was just along as insurance for the
western trip or if he would replace Jeff Woywitka in the lineup following Woywitka’s
costly turnover against Dallas. But
Coach John Tortorella indicated that Erixon is on the trip as
insurance for Steve Eminger, who blocked a hard shot off his arm against
the Stars. Tortorella wants Erixon to be
around the team and told
Blueshirt United, “maybe we’ll see him in another month, who knows.”
- The friendly confines of Madison Square Garden have been
very kind to the New York Rangers in 2011 thus far, but the Blueshirts haven’t forgotten
how to win on the road either.
New York is 9-4-2 away from home this season and 53-36-8
over the last two plus seasons. In the
past, the team’s strong road play has masked abysmal efforts on home-ice, but a
big reason the Blueshirts have ascended the standings this year is that their
play on home-ice has finally matched their play on the road.
- Jaroslav Halak was expected to carry the load this year
after coming over from Montreal last summer, but Halak’s early struggles
allowed Elliott to seize control of the starting job in net. Halak’s game has also come around since a
slow start, but it won’t be easy for him to knock Elliott from the crease.
- If you missed our recap of the first episode of “24/7,” check
it out here.
here for our full 2011-2012 Season Archive >
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