Mar 13, 2012, 7:30 AM EDT
The New York Rangers avoided a disastrous four-game losing streak on Sunday by beating their rival Islanders in overtime. Now they’ll look to put a stop on the Hurricanes tonight (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and take charge of the Eastern Conference with the Penguins roaring up behind them in the standings.
New York has had their share of adversity lately with injuries to captain Ryan Callahan, top-four defenseman Michael Del Zotto, and Brandon Dubinsky as well. While Dubinsky came back against the Isles, Callahan and Del Zotto both missed that game and did not participate in practice yesterday either.
Making up the difference for them was the return of a successful power play against the Isles. The Rangers scored three power play goals with two coming from Brad Richards and one from Marian Gaborik. The secret spark plug there? Mats Zuccarello whose presence on the man advantage has helped spice up the Rangers attack. Question now is whether it was a one-game flash in the pan or an actual solution to a glaring problem for New York.
The Rangers can always bank on Henrik Lundqvist being his usual fantastic self, but not having a power play that gets the job done is something that would present major issues for New York on their quest for the Stanley Cup.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are all but out of the playoffs (Dave Lozo of NHL.com points out they’ll need to finish 11-1-1 to get to 90 points) and it’s up to them to try and ruin other team’s plans for the playoffs. Recently they’ve been throwing wrenches in the plans of the Predators, Capitals, and Lightning and now they’d like to hurt New York’s plans of finishing on top of the Eastern Conference.
While Eric Staal has played well in the second half, youngster Jeff Skinner admitted that coming back from a concussion was trickier than he thought it’d be. In the 23 games he’s played since returning he has just seven goals and seven assists. Despite that lack of production and missing 16 games, he’s second on the team in scoring behind Staal. I think we’ve figured out what’s wrong with the Canes this season.
The guy who the lack of offense has been hardest on is goalie Cam Ward. Ward has faced a ton of rubber this season and while his save percentage isn’t wholly terrible, his goals against average is hurting at 2.80. He’ll need to buckle up for the Rangers attack as they’re feeling good after busting out on Sunday. This season against New York, Ward is 0-3-0 while allowing 13 goals in those three starts.
What to watch: Young defensemen are all the rage here. New York’s Ryan McDonagh (22) and Carolina’s Justin Faulk (19 – pictured) are a pair of names you’re going to hear a lot of in the years to come. McDonagh is quickly becoming one of the better straight up defenders on the Rangers while Faulk is shouldering the load as perhaps Carolina’s best blue liner.
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