The Rangers host the Wild tonight at the Garden as they look to snap a two-game losing streak and finish off this three-game homestand with at least one win. Here are some things to key on during this game.
GETTING HEALTHY: Left Wing Ruslan Fedotenko will play tonight after missing the last two games with a shoulder injury, while All-Star defenseman Marc Staal will probably make his return tonight after missing the last three game with a knee strain, according to Rangers head coach John Tortorella. Tortorella said the team wants to make sure that Staal is ready to go tonight and they will assess his status after warmup.
“I just want to make sure he feels good about it,” Tortorella said. “As these games dwindle, I’ve said we want to get guys in right away, we certainly don’t want him out an extended period of time by forcing him in that situation where we lost him completely and that’s what we worry about.”
JUMP ON IT: Tortorella would like to see his team get off to a faster start tonight than it has in its past few games. In each of its last two home losses, the Rangers have trailed after the first period, getting outscored a combined 3-0. The Blue Shirts have also not held a lead during this losing streak.
“We’re trying to stay away from that desperation mode of always trying to come back and I believe we will,” Tortorella said. “We will get this straightened out and we have to find a way to get this going right away. First half of the year we did. Second half of the year it’s been a little inconsistent, not all the game,s but certainly more inconsistent.”
DON’T LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER: The battle for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference is getting tighter with each day. The Rangers are just one point ahead of eighth-place Carolina and three points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo. Carolina has also played one less game than the Rangers, while Buffalo has played two less games. With the Sabres and Hurricanes battling tonight, one of those teams will creep closer to the Rangers. The Rangers need to start picking up points fast or they could become the chasers instead of the hunted soon. The Blue Shirts are just 4-9-1 in their last 14 games.
“If you think we’re playing bad hockey, we’re not,” Tortorella said. “We’re not playing well enough to win and that’s what we’ve been at for quite some while there. I don’t think we’ve played terribly at all but we just haven’t been able to change the momentum in a game or get a big play or a big save or whatever it might be to win a hockey game consistently and that’s our heel. That’s what we are trying to get over.”
OTHER NOTES: Injured right win Marian Gaborik will not play tonight or tomorrow against Ottawa as he battles concussion symptoms….Tortorella did not have a timetable on Michael Del Zotto, who broke his finger in an AHL game Wednesday. He will be seeing a specialist....Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal.