Written By: Mike Ulatoski
The Rangers faceoff against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in an Atlantic Division matchup. The Blueshirts currently rank fourth in the Atlantic Division standings, and ninth in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 29-27-7 (65 pts.). The Rangers enter tonight’s contest having defeated the Ottawa Senators, 4-1, on Tuesday at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. The Rangers have won each of their last three games, and are 4-1-0 in their last five contests. The Penguins enter the contest with a 37-22-4 (78 pts.) record to rank fourth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Atlantic Division, one point behind the division-leading New Jersey Devils. Following tomorrow’s contest, the Rangers return to action on Saturday, Mar. 6, when they will faceoff against the Washington Capitals (7:00 p.m.) at the Verizon Center in D.C.
This is the sixth and final meeting between the Rangers and Penguins this season, and the third at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have a 1-4-0 record this season against Pittsburgh, following a 3-2 overtime win on Feb. 12 at Mellon Arena. The Rangers are 0-2-0 at home against the Penguins.
The Rangers rank 25th in the NHL at home with a record of 14-15-4 (32 pts.) in 33 games. The Penguins have posted a record of 18-12-1 (37 pts.) in 31 road games, to rank seventh in the NHL. New York has posted a record of 5-9-2 versus Atlantic Division opponents, while Pittsburgh has registered an 11-6-1 mark versus the Atlantic Division.
What About Gaborik?
The Rangers will be without star forward Marian Gaborik, who will be missing his sixth game of the season. He is still listed as day-to-day because of a right knee laceration, which he suffered from a practice a week before the Olympic break when he jumped over Henrik Lundqvist and got cut by a skate blade. Now, more than a month later, he is still injured, but it is no longer the laceration that is cause for concern.
Gaborik missed three games before heading to Vancouver to play for Team Slovakia. In the final game of the Olympics, he was injured again. This time, he injured his groin, which has plagued him his entire career. The severity is unknown at this point, with reports saying he could be back in the lineup next Tuesday against New Jersey. However, it may be worse than that. Behind the scenes there are those saying that Gaborik may actually need another surgery to fix his oft-injured groin, which would put him out for the rest of the season.
The Rangers have to face adversity head-on, and realize that they may be without their best offensive player the rest of the year. The way the Rangers played on Tuesday in Ottawa needs to carry over into tonight’s matchup. They played with energy, they played aggressive on the forecheck, and capitalized on their opportunities. This team can’t afford to play the way they did in the first part of the season: play like a top-5 Eastern Conference team one game, then play like a last-place team the next. In the last 3 seasons, the Rangers have caught fire beginning in March. Take a look at the records from March until the end of the season for the past three Rangers seasons:
’06-’07 – 12-3-4
’07-’08 – 9-3-5
’08-’09 – 11-6-1
Looking at those numbers, it’s impossible not to see another similar playoff push in this team – they have the talent, the coaching, and the veteran leadership to make a run to close out the regular season. So far this season, they’re 1-0-0 in March.
The Rangers continue the march to the playoffs, and get their second win in March tonight.
Rangers 3, Penguins 2
Shot Calling – goal for Olli Jokinen