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Red Hot Rangers Head West

Remember when the Rangers were 2-4-1 coming off the Olympic break, and the panic started to set in? The Rangers had gone from a team comfortably in one of those coveted 2-3 spots in the Metropolitan Division, to having to keep an eye on all of the wild card contenders.  Since that seven game stretch that ended on March 13th, the Rangers are looking like a team that is hitting their stride with the NHL’s second season on the horizon. They’re 6-1-0 (winning by a combined score of 24-11 in that stretch), goaltender Henrik Lundqvist passed Mike Richter on the franchise wins list and Ed Giacomin on the franchise shutout list, and they’ve beaten teams that they’re fending off in the standings like Philadelphia and Columbus.

With just eight regular season games left on the calendar, the Rangers head out on their last extended road trip of the season, starting Friday night in Calgary. After that, they make stops in Edmonton, Vancouver (Alain Vigneault’s first game back in Vancouver), and Colorado. The Flames and Oilers are lottery-bound, the Canucks playoff hopes are circling the drain more and more with each passing day, and the Avs will provide a good test of how the Rangers compare among one of the West’s best. Extending their winning streak to nine is a lofty goal, but coming back from the road trip with five or six out of a possible eight points is well within reach. After the road trip, the Blueshirts have three home games against teams who won’t be playing past April 13th (Ottawa, Carolina and Buffalo), before heading up to Montreal to wrap up the season.

Chris Kreider may not be back until the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. (Photo by Scott Levy – Getty Images)
Chris Kreider may not be back until the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
(Photo by Scott Levy – Getty Images)

For the most part, all is well in Rangerstown at the moment. But there are two things that aren’t so peachy right now, and one of them is Chris Kreider’s hand. While nothing has been confirmed yet, the 22 year-old winger missed the victory over Philly, and he won’t be tagging along for the trip out to the Pacific Northwest. Early reports indicate it’s a broken hand (suffered during the 4-3 OT victory over Phoenix on Monday night), and that he’ll miss at least a month.  The rookie has seventeen goals and twenty assists, and he’s been a fixture in the Rangers top-six all season long. JT Miller has been called up to take Kreider’s spot on the roster.

The other thing that isn’t going well for the Rangers at the moment is Marty St. Louis’ production. Injuries provide opportunities, and the Kreider’s absence from the line-up is a chance to get Marty going. The former Lightning captain has only three assists in twelve games with New York, and he’ll be moving up to Kreider’s spot on the top line alongside Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. Stepan is a playmaker, and Nash commands the attention of a team’s top defenders. This should give St. Louis some room on the ice to produce more. Any time an athlete spends a really long time with one team (in St. Louis’s case, over a decade) and moves on to another, there is definitely an adjustment period. That being said, the “gripping the stick too tight” excuse can only buy you so much time. I’ve heard hockey analysts say that it takes a player twenty games to get going with a new team. The Rangers have eight games remaining, so that puts St. Louis on pace to get going by game one of the playoffs (in theory). It’s ludicrous to think that the Rangers should be regretting the Ryan Callahan trade this soon, but a guy of St. Louis’ caliber needs to start lighting the lamp soon. Consistent production from him is something the Rangers need to make a deep playoff run.

Adam Bernard
I'm a seasoned veteran in the sports media field and a lifelong Rangers fan (hoping to relive 1994 at some point - I couldn't fully appreciate a championship at 11 years old). Hockey dominates my life for the most part: I also root for the Blackhawks & Kings, I've been lucky enough to split season tickets for the Blueshirts with a good friend since the lockout, and I'm a defenseman on a local roller hockey team. Away from the rink, I enjoy hiking, hard rock music, and spending time with my dog Astro.
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