New York Rangers (40-15-6) at Carolina Hurricanes (24-26-13)
RBC Center 7 p.m.
February is behind us and the Hurricanes certainly enjoyed themselves during that month going 6-1-4 and actually posting some respectable underlying numbers. Like I said in the scoring chance recap, the rebuilding process is going to be slow and steady and that’s pretty much how it’s been for the Canes this year. Will Carolina be able to carry over their success in February to March? If their underlying numbers keep improving, then possibly. The month begins with a tough test tonight against the Eastern Conference’s best team, the New York Rangers. We’ve had two not-so-pleasant outings against the Blueshirts this year, so it would be nice to get a win against them tonight and stay strong at home. It should be interesting at the very least after seeing the lines that Kirk Muller used in practice.
More on that after the jump.
Tlusty – Staal – Stewart
Boychuk – Jokinen – Skinner
Nodl – Sutter – Joslin
Bowman – Brent – Samson
Allen – Gleason
Faulk – Harrison
McBain – Spacek
Anisimov – Stepan – Gaborik
Hagelin – Richards – Callahan
Dubinsky – Boyle – Prust
Rupp – Mitchell – Fedotenko
McDonagh – Girardi
Del Zotto – Stralman
Staal – Bickell
Getting to know the Rangers
Like I said earlier, the Canes haven’t matched up well with the Rags this year. They were demolished at MSG back in November and played a pretty poor game against them at home in December. Most teams are having trouble beating the Blueshirts this year, though as they are running away with the Eastern Conference. Most did not expect them to be this good so soon because they are still a young team and have some depth issues on defense but they are proving the naysayers wrong. They haven’t quite made a believer out of anyone yet, and that includes me. Their possession rates are very mediocre and have been all season long. Couple that with some extremly high on-ice shooting and save percentages and you have a team that might be getting one or two bounces going their way
The man who has gotten the Rangers this far is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist as he has established himself as the best goalie in the world right now. He has a ludicrous .940 save percentage and has kept the Rangers in just about every game. It helps that he has been able to rest more this year than he has in the past since Martin Biron is a more than capable back-up, and that’s who the Canes will be seeing in net tonight. I am not saying that the Rangers aren’t a good team, because they are a great team but I don’t think they are THIS good. We saw the Bruins ride Tim Thomas to the Stanley Cup last year but they were a much better possession team than the Rangers are right now, so I am not confident in saying that they are the favorites to win the cup, even if Lundqvist is unbelievable. The good news for Ranger fans is that even if they don’t win the cup this year, they are probably going to be contenders for the next few years with the core they have.
- So yeah…about those lines at practice. I really don’t think they will last that long. I know that Muller has to find a replacement for Dwyer on the third line but I don’t think that guy should be Joslin. The logic of putting a defenseman on a shutdown line is enticing but Joslin’s numbers have plummeted ever since he started playing as a forward. Bowman played well on the third line last week, why not keep him there?
- Anthony Stewart gets the promotion to the top line despite Samson having one of the better games of the season on Tuesday. A demotion for him would have made more sense after Saturday’s game but he and Bowman both played well when they were together. It’s all a matter of how much ice time they get.
- Justin Faulk and Jay Harrison are in for a test tonight as they are probably going to have to play against Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan and the posession god, Carl Hagelin.
- I don’t know if Marc Staal and Dan Girardi will remain split for this game, but this is could work out well for the Rangers because that will give them two stud defensemen against both the Skinner and Staal lines.
- One of Jokinen or Skinner will score a goal tonight. Bank on it.
- I know NYR has a brutal powerplay but it’s best if Carolina stays out of the box tonight because two of their main penalty killers are out and I don’t know who will pick up the slack there. They took only one penalty against Nashville and got lucky but that might not be the case this time. I hope this means that Nodl gets some time on the PK because it makes sense to play him there.
- Special teams decided Tuesday nights game and I have a feeling that will be the case tonight, as well.
Enjoy the game and let’s go Canes.