Friday, March 29, 2013
W2W4: Rangers at Canadiens
By Matt Ehalt
At a glance: The Rangers, who have dropped three of their last four, will look to bounce back from Thursday's 3-0 loss to Ottawa when they visit Montreal on Saturday.
Playoff update: The Rangers (35 points) are tied with the Islanders for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders, however, have played one more game than the Rangers.
Montreal blues: The Rangers are 0-2 this year against the Canadiens, losing 3-1 at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 19 and getting blanked 3-0 in Montreal on Feb. 23.
If the Rangers make the playoffs, and can somehow work their way into the No. 7 seed, they could see Montreal in the quarterfinals. It'd be a boost to their confidence if they could find a way to beat them in the regular season.
Replacing Prust: In the offseason, former Rangers forward Brandon Prust signed a four-year, $10 million deal with Montreal. While Prust isn't a top scorer, he brought a toughness and style of play that meshed perfectly with the identity the Rangers have created under head coach John Tortorella. As the season nears its end, it's obvious the Rangers have missed Prust and all the little things he's willing to do that might not appear in the box score.
Return of the Mats: The Rangers officially signed Mats Zuccarello on Thursday, bringing him back into the fold so he can help down the stretch. He didn't play Thursday, but he could potentially make his season debut Saturday against Montreal. Zuccarello had 11 goals and 17 assists in 44 games with the KHL this year, and has eight goals and 18 assists in his NHL career.
No PK: The Rangers have allowed a power-play goal in the past five games and find themselves in the middle of the pack in the league with an 80.7 percent kill rate. With the offense struggling, the Rangers can't afford to give up goals with a man down. Not having defenseman Marc Staal doesn't help, but the Rangers have to find a way to be better after getting penalized.
Does March have to end? One player who doesn't want to see the calendar change to April is Derek Stepan. The forward has six goals and nine assists in March, which is 60 percent of his total points on the year. The 22-year-old had struggled through January and February in terms of scoring, but has figured out how to put it all together. the Rangers need him to keep this up in April.