Written By: Mike Ulatoski

Rangers at Senators Preview

The Rangers resume their regular season schedule tonight when they face-off against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m.) in Ottawa, in their first game back from the Olympic break. The Blueshirts currently rank fourth in the Atlantic Division standings, and 10th in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 28-27-7 (63 pts.). The Rangers enter tonight’s contest having defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-2, on Feb. 14 at Madison Square Garden, to enter the Olympic Break riding a two-game winning streak. The Senators enter the contest with a 36-23-4 (76 pts.) record to rank third in the Eastern Conference. Following tonight’s contest, the Rangers will return to action on Thursday, March 4, when they faceoff against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in an Atlantic Division matchup.

Rangers Olympic Review
Each of the five Rangers at the Olympics played well, especially Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan for Team USA. Drury found his scoring touch getting rebounds in front of the net and was spectacular killing penalties. Callahan was selected to represent America to kill penalties, and he excelled as well. Finnish center Olli Jokinen scored two goals in Finland’s victory in the bronze medal game and played solid hockey throughout the Olympics. Winger Marian Gaborik played through his nagging thigh injury, and although he didn’t contribute as expected offensively, he seemed to skate very well. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist posted consecutive shutouts for the Swedes through their first 2 games.  Sweden lost in the quarterfinals, which gave Lundqvist a disappointing Olympic exit, but also gave him a much-needed and deserved week off. Coming back into the NHL season, I expect him to be strong in net.

Trade Deadline
The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday, March 3, at 3:00 p.m. The race for a playoff spot begins right now.  The biggest needs on the Rangers as they stand right now is a physical, crease-clearing defenseman, and of course, some offense. Both have been huge needs all season. Defenseman Corey Potter was once again recalled from the Rangers’ AHL-affiliate, Hartford, and forwards Aaron Voros and Enver Lisin have been waived. With this, $1.79 million is coming off the books (Voros $1 million, and Lisin $790K). That clears up a lot of cap room to make a deal as the trade deadline approaches. A force like defenseman Sheldon Souray could fill both glaring needs. Souray could be the crease-clearing defenseman that the Rangers don’t have, as Lundqvist has been bumped into all season long with nobody on defense doing anything about it. Not only that, Souray has a huge slapshot from the point. With Michael Del Zotto’s passing ability and Souray’s shooting, the Rangers powerplay would be remarkably improved. There’s a big chance that Potter was called up to be part of a trade. Factor that in with Voros and Lisin being waived, and it doesn’t seem like the Rangers made these moves for nothing.

Prediction
Ottawa was playing excellent hockey before the Olympic break, winning 14 of 16, propelling into first place in the Northeast Division – one point ahead of Buffalo. The Rangers won three of four before the break, but were a dismal 2-8 before that. The Rangers look to win three in a row tonight for the first time since a four-game streak from Dec. 17-23.  I see the Rangers coming out strong tonight, even against an Ottawa Senators team that is 23-8-3 at home this season – which ranks them as the second best home team in the NHL. Lundqvist gives a great performance in net tonight. Rangers win 2-1. Playoff push starts now.

Shot Calling –
goal for Ryan Callahan


Photo Credit: SBNation.com