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Friday, January 21, 2011
Consistency the key for Rangers

By Mike Hume

One night after a 7-0 smothering of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Rangers allowed the Carolina Hurricanes to open up the game and skate away with a 4-1 win that left Blueshirts bench boss John Tortorella labeling his team’s defense as “brutal.”

To anyone watching Thursday night’s game, the Rangers showed little resemblance to the squad that dismantled Toronto, or the team that topped NHL-leading Vancouver earlier this month. Of course, that sort of fluctuation is nothing new for the Rangers this season.

Looking back at the Rangers’ schedule, the longest points streak the Blueshirts have been able to run off is four games -- a pair of wins over the Islanders and Devils Dec. 27 and 29, bookended by OT losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Only once this season have the Rangers won three consecutive games in regulation, downing Toronto, Boston and New Jersey in October.

But those short streaks have been highlighted by some very impressive wins: 3-2 over Chicago (Nov. 1), a pair of wins against Pittsburgh, a 7-0 spanking of Washington and that 1-0 win over Vancouver among them.

Following the win over the Canucks, Brian Boyle noted that everyone in the Rangers’ locker room believes the team is capable of beating anyone on any given night. But he also noted that to join that upper echelon of elite teams, you need to do that night in and night out. To this point, the Rangers have been unable to do that.

Injuries have played a major factor in that up-and-down behavior. It seems like every week the Rangers welcome a replacement from Hartford to the lineup while watching one of their key players -- Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky -- recover from an injury. It’s tough to develop much of a flow if you’re always starting and stopping, teaching new players and adjusting to new roles.

If the Rangers can enjoy just a month of good fortune on the injury front, it will be interesting to see what they can do with it. But for now, they’ll have to find consistency in their constant state of roster flux.