Tuesday, January 10, 2012
W2W4: Rangers vs. Phoenix
By Katie Strang
At a glance: The Rangers aim for their fifth straight win while hosting the sputtering Phoenix Coyotes. Unlike the Blueshirts, who have won nine of their last ten games, Phoenix has struggled to gain traction in the Western Conference. Over the last ten games the Coyotes have posted a 4-4-2 record; Tuesday will be the first of their three- game road trip that also features stops in Detroit and Columbus.
Top of the heap: Riding a four-game winning streak, the Rangers sit atop the league standings with 56 points. The team’s 26-9-4 record has them one point ahead of Vancouver, with four games in hand. The Rangers’ .718 winning percentage – which clinched coach John Tortorella a spot as one of the All-Star Game coaches – is the team’s fourth best start through 39 games. According to Elias Sports Bureau, this is also their best start through 39 games since the 1993-94 Stanley Cup Championship season 18 years ago.
Hot hand:Henrik Lundqvist enters Tuesday’s match with a six-game winning streak. The 29-year-old Swedish netminder, third in the league in goals against average and save percentage, has a 1.17 GAA, .964 save percentage and one shutout during that six-game span.
False start: Unimpressed with his team’s first drill during practice Monday, coach John Tortorella sent his squad off the ice to re-group. The Rangers returned for an hour-long up-tempo session with a not-so-gentle reminder that they cannot afford to be complacent, especially while on top.
Fresh blood: The Coyotes claimed center Gilbert Brule off re-entry waivers from Edmonton Tuesday at noon. The 25-year-old has eight goals and 10 assists in 27 games with the Oiler’s minor-league club this season. The Coyotes also activated center Boyd Gordon off injured reserve; Gordon missed the last seven games with a lower-body injury.
Bottom line: Looking to rattle off their fifth in a row, the Rangers will look to use the home ice at Madison Square Garden to their advantage. Although lackluster at home last season, the Rangers are 12-3-2 at MSG this year, their best start at home through 17 games since 1995-96.