New York Hockey: Carolina Hurricanes

'Canes snap Devils' winning streak

February, 12, 2013

After stringing together five straight wins to claim the top spot in the East, the Devils surrendered their first regulation loss at home Tuesday with a 4-2 defeat to Carolina.

It was another big night for Hurricanes forward Jiri Tlusty. After recording four points in a 6-4 win over the Islanders on Monday, Tlusty tallied twice for Carolina in the third to halt the Devils' season-high winning streak.

The Devils remain in first place in the East with 19 points, but saw their lead whittled to one point as the Bruins earned a point with a late-game rally against the Rangers that forced overtime.

New Jersey hosts the Flyers at Newark's Prudential Center on Friday.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Hurricanes 2

March, 13, 2012

Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: Avoiding what could've easily been a trap game with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on the horizon, the Rangers topped the Hurricanes 4-2 to complete a series sweep against Carolina. The Eastern Conference-leading Blueshirts received a tremendous performance from their top line of Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, all of whom finished with three points apiece in boosting the team to its second straight win of a seven-game homestand at Madison Square Garden.

Another pair for Richards: After beating Cam Ward high-glove at 10:12 in the second, Brad Richards ripped another past him from the slot to record his second straight multi-goal game. Richards also tallied twice in an 4-3 overtime win against the Islanders on Sunday. He now has five goals in the last three games, as well as a four-game point streak.

High marks for Hagelin: Hagelin picked up primary assists on both of Richards' second-period markers, then tallied one of his own in the third for a much-needed insurance goal. His wraparound score gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead with seven minutes in regulation.

Quick comeback: Trailing 3-0 in the second period, Carolina rallied with two goals within 32 seconds of each other. After second-year center Jeff Skinner scored on a scramble in front at 14:44, Drayson Bowman pulled the Hurricanes within a goal at 15:12.

Leading the pack: Tallying the Rangers' first goal of the game, and his 34th of the season, Marian Gaborik recorded his ninth point in the last eight games. Gaborik, who leads the team in goals and assists, buried Dan Girardi's rebound that caromed off the end boards for a 1-0 Rangers lead at 3:02 of the first period.

Last-minute start: Although slated to back up Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Biron received the starting nod with Lundqvist battling the flu. Biron received some help early in the first when Ruslan Fedotenko made one of the best saves of the game, stopping Jussi Jokinen in front after Biron turned the puck over and scrambled to get back in position.

Second chance for Sanguinetti: Former first-round draft pick defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti played his first NHL game in more than two years against his former team. The 24-year-old Trenton, N.J., native, selected by New York 21st overall in 2006, was called up Monday by Carolina. He played five games for the Rangers in 2009-10 before he was traded to Carolina in exchange for two picks.

Up next: Rangers vs. Penguins, 7 p.m. Thursday.

NHL realignment amps up rivalries

December, 6, 2011
Welcome to the new world order, eh?

Monday night, the NHL Board of Governors unveiled a drastic plan to re-map the league into four new conferences and do away with the current 15-team Eastern and Western conferences and their three sub-divisions.

It's a move that will reduce travel for teams in the West, as well as drastically increase the emphasis of regional rivalries ... and the competition for playoff spots.

In the interest of time, we won't rehash the new-look NHL; if you haven’t read about it yet, be sure to do so before you read on. Also, ESPN Insiders should take a look at Craig Custance's Realignment Winners and Losers article.

Here, we're going to examine how the new plan impacts the three New York area teams. And for starters, the playoff push may have just gotten a lot harder.

The Rangers, Devils and Islanders will be playing in the hardest of the four new conferences next season. That's not just an off-the-cuff claim; it's based on cumulative team point totals since the 2004-05 lockout.

Take a look at the new group we’ll call the "Atlantic Division Plus-2": The Rangers, Isles, Devils Penguins, Flyers, Capitals and Hurricanes. Since the lockout, those teams have combined to send 27 of a possible 48 teams to the playoffs, the highest percentage of any of the new conferences.

(The westernmost of the new conferences -- Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, L.A., Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver -- also sent 27 teams over that span, but is comprised of eight teams.)

Moreover, teams in the Atlantic-Plus 2 averaged 92.2 points in the standings over that time span, also the best showing of the new conferences -- just better than the aforementioned westernmost conference by a tenth of a point.

So what's that mean for the New York teams? One quick conclusion will be new heights for already intense rivalries.

Only four of the seven teams in the Atlantic Plus-2 can make the playoffs, meaning there will be a team left home in 2012-13 that has qualified for four of the past six postseasons. With intra-conference teams meeting six times a season, each and every one of those games will carry the utmost importance. And once the postseason rolls around, the intensity will reach a new high, as the top four teams battle head to head to reach the league semifinals.

A few other notes to consider:

Net Gain: The Atlantic was one of three existing divisions that stayed intact and gained teams. Instead of potentially waving goodbye to the Penguins, as some realignment scenarios envisioned, the Atlantic's "founding five" gained two solid squads in Washington and Carolina.

Star Power: New York-area fans will now get to watch Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin 18 times each per year on the MSG family of networks, and that doesn’t include national broadcasts.

Stars on the Horizon: In the "old" Atlantic Division, the Islanders seemed to have a monopoly on top-of-the-draft talent. No longer. The Canes will bring Jeff Skinner and dynamic D-men Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy with them, while the Caps could introduce their next high-profile Russian prospect, Evgeny Kuznetsov, as early as next season.

Family Ties: Starting in 2012, all four Staal brothers will play in the same division -- if youngest brother Jared should get the call up to the Canes. In case you're wondering, there will be a 42 percent chance that a Staal brother will reach the NHL semifinals each year.

Familiarity: Not every player in each conference will be related, but it will feel like it after a few seasons. After six regular season games and a pair of playoff series against intra-conference teams, secrets should be few and far between.

No Trap Games: Speaking of frequent foes, how glad is everyone that they won’t have to watch Tampa's 1-3-1 trap six times a year? (Somewhere, Chris Pronger is raising his hand.)

The Unexpected: You can reference the past as often as you like (and I have), but the only way to truly predict how this new format will shake out will be to watch it in action. Of course, we still have this mildly interesting 2011-12 season in front of us as well. The NHL sure has a way of keeping things interesting.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 5, Hurricanes 3

December, 1, 2011

Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: The Rangers kicked off a two-game Southeast swing by topping the struggling Canes 5-3 for their fourth consecutive victory, improving to 14-5-3 on the season. Twice erasing one-goal deficits, the Rangers mounted a three-goal second period to edge Carolina in the host team's second game under new head coach Kirk Muller.

Second-period surge: Trailing 2-1 after the first period, the Rangers rattled off three straight in the second within a five-minute span. The Rangers had a dominant middle frame Tuesday as well, putting up a four-spot against Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to sink Pittsburgh.

Another good game for Gaborik: Star sniper Marian Gaborik scored his team-leading 12th goal of the season at 11:50 of the second, converting a pretty slip pass from Artem Anisimov for a 3-2 Rangers lead. Gaborik also picked up a primary assist as after Sean Avery beat Cam Ward with a snapshot at 13:47.

Pair from D: Defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer both tallied goals in the team's 14th win of the season. McDonagh leads the defensive corps with four goals while Sauer scored his first of the season on a delayed penalty at 5:42 of the third.

Early exit: John Mitchell left the game with less than seven minutes to play in the third period after taking a shot to the side of his helmet. Mitchell appeared to be bleeding from above his right eye, but was able to skate off to the trainer's room on his own.

Still streaking: With an assist on Sauer's third-period goal, Rookie winger Carl Hagelin has recorded a point in each of the four games he's played since being called up from the AHL's Connecticut Whale last Thursday.

Off the draw: Canes center Brandon Sutter beat 21-year-old Derek Stepan from the face-off circle to set up Jiri Tlusty's goal only 35 seconds into play.

Not so fast: The Rangers tied the game a little more than a minute later on captain Ryan Callahan's 10th of the season. Brad Richards picked up an assist on the play, shooting the puck to Callahan in front for a power-play goal.

Power-ful play: With Callahan scoring on the man-advantage at 1:42 of the first, the Rangers have tallied a power-play goal in each of their last four games. During that span they have gone 5-for-17.

Canes captain still struggling: Hurricanes captain Eric Staal has picked up his game since a seven-game scoreless streak from Oct. 28 to Nov. 11, but not by much. Limited to only two assists Thursday, the two-time 40-goal scorer has only five goals and nine assists in 27 games this season. Staal’s hit on younger brother Marc during a game last February left the Rangers defenseman with post-concussion symptoms; he remains on injured reserve and has yet to play a game this season.

Up next: Rangers at Lightning, 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Rangers are back in playoffs

April, 9, 2011
The Tampa Bay Lightning struck early and often in a 6-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, giving the Rangers possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers' season will continue, though there may be a brief pause to scribble some thank you notes to the boys with the lightning bolts on their jerseys.

The Rangers will match-up against the Washington Capitals in the first round, with the first two games to be played in D.C. That's just fine by the Rangers though, as they've handled the Caps pretty well this season. In their last three meetings, the Rangers have outscored the Caps 14-1 en route to three victories.

Look for a larger breakdown on the series to come, but one thing to sweeten the dreams of Rangers fans tonight: The Blueshirts are now playing with house money. Nothing more is expected of them. Meanwhile, the Caps will be playing with the weight of the world (and an impatient owner who has put his team on the clock to win a Cup) as they look to avoid another early-round upset. That's an awfully nice combination if you're an underdog like the Rangers.

As the Philadelphia Flyers proved last season, just getting into the playoffs is a big hurdle. Once you're in, anything can happen. Now the fun starts.

Rapid Reaction: Thrashers 3, Rangers 0

April, 7, 2011

Recap | Box score | Photos

What It Means

Thursday night a Southeast Division opponent came into MSG and, with a 3-0 win, the Atlanta Thrashers cast a big chill on the Rangers’ chances to keep playing spring hockey. New York's postseason hopes now all come down to Saturday against the New Jersey Devils.

Playing With Fire

And I mean the bad kind of fire. Rather than rocket out of the gates with the energy you'd expect from a team chasing a final playoff spot, the Rangers were outplayed for much of the first before finally yielding a pair of markers near the midway point of the second period. Though the Rangers had come close to notching a pair of goals themselves, including a Brian Boyle pipe-strike six minutes into the second, the Blueshirts’ deficit could have been much greater if not for some acrobatic saves by Henrik Lundqvist. A toe save to halt an Evander Kane breakaway at the end of the first period was the most notable among the clutch stops.


Former Islander (double burn) Rob Schremp beat Lundqvist over his right shoulder for the Thrashers’ first goal at 7:42 of the second period. A mere, 15 seconds later, the Thrash lit the lamp again when Andrew Ladd broke into the zone untouched and slid a shot through Lundqvist to turn up the heat on the Rangers. For the second consecutive game, the Rangers faced a multi-goal deficit in a must-have game.

Lucky For Lundqvist

As mentioned above, the Rangers would have faced a much, much deeper hole if not for Lundqvist. Through two periods he had recorded 18 saves. At least a third of them fell into the highlight reel category. In addition to turning away Kane’s breakaway, Lundqvist robbed Dustin Byfuglien with a lightning-quick glove save when the D-man was all alone at the left faceoff dot.

Rally For Cally

In addition to his leadership and energy, the biggest aspects the Rangers miss without Ryan Callahan is his ability to sustain a forecheck and his ability to stretch the defense with his speed down the wing. Safe to say the Rangers sorely lacked both of those traits Thursday night. Seldom could the Rangers keep the puck in deep and even the speedy Marian Gaborik, who saw scant ice time in period three, couldn’t beat the Thrashers’ D to the outside.

Final Fantasy

The Thrashers eclipsed any hope of another stirring comeback at 4:19 in the third when a goal by Johnny Oduya pushed the margin to 3-0 in favor of Atlanta. The Rangers' energy level spiked after that strike but they still couldn't breach Thrasher goalie Ondrej Pavelec. The Atlanta keeper was solid, but never had to be spectacular en route to the shutout. The Rangers just couldn't muster many good chances and dreams of a rally died out slowly over the final 15 minutes.

What’s Next

For better or worse the Rangers’ postseason fate will be decided Saturday. It starts with a 12:30 p.m. showdown against the Devils, but the Carolina Hurricanes could have the final say if they can pull out a win against these same Thrashers on Friday night. That would pull the Canes even with the Blueshirts and make the Rangers wait for the outcome of Carolina’s Saturday night tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning before knowing their future. After yielding control of their own destiny with a loss Thursday, one way or the other the Rangers will have to sit. And wait.

A Wednesday of waiting

April, 6, 2011
After a brief stay in sixth place, the idle Rangers dropped back to eighth following wins by the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night. All three teams have two games remaining in the regular season, with the Habs up two points on the Rangers and a single point on the Sabres. Montreal will hold the regulation wins tie-breaker over both teams with 40.

The only team left who can spoil a postseason spot for the Rangers is the Carolina Hurricanes who are in action Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings. With a game in hand, the Canes wouldn't be eliminated with a regulation loss, but it would allow the Rangers to clinch with just one point when they take the ice Thursday night against Atlanta.

As fans wait for the Rangers to return to action, they continue to stew about the injury to Ryan Callahan. It's certainly a bad blow for the Rangers, but postseason success isn't unthinkable with the wing on the shelf. When Callahan was out from Dec. 15 to Feb. 1, the Rangers posted a record of 10-7-2, including wins over the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks. Will his absence hurt? Absolutely. But it's not as though Callahan provides the Rangers with a disproportionate amount of their goals. In fact there are four other Blueshirts within two markers of his goal total.

The Rangers can make up the loss of Callahan's offense. And while they'll miss Callahan's lead-by-example effort, I can't see head coach John Tortorella letting the team play with any less grit in his absence.

It's indisputable that New York loses a great player in Callahan, but any kind of playoff run was going to take a team effort anyway. If they're going to pull a first round upset it's likely to be because of solid defense, wall-like goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist and a persistent forecheck. None of those three elements are going anywhere. Callahan just won't be involved in the latter.

Rangers need to rebound. Soon.

April, 1, 2011
What happened?

For the second straight game the Rangers came out flat. And for the second straight game they paid the price.

The rival New York Islanders pummeled the Blueshirts every which way Thursday night and made the morning of April Fool's Day a cruel one for Ranger fans.

The Isles were flying from the start, but the Rangers somehow managed to strike first on a slap shot by Vinny Prospal. Following a few Islander penalties, including some retaliation for Marian Gaborik checking Frans Nielsen headfirst in the boards, it seemed like the Islanders gave the Rangers every chance to put the game away early. But like it has so often of late, the Rangers' offense let them down and left the door open. A door the Islanders were all too happy to slam in their rivals' faces.

Defensively the Rangers gave Henrik Lundqvist little help in his personal-record 22nd consecutive start, and he paid the price by getting yanked after allowing the fourth of the Islanders' six goals.

After the game, Ryan Callahan called the effort unacceptable for this time of year (via Andrew Gross). You can call it extremely costly too. Depending the results of tomorrow's games, by the time the Rangers take the ice again on Sunday they may be clinging to eighth place by a single point over the Carolina Hurricanes. And while the Rangers battle the Philadelphia Flyers, the Canes will clash with the Buffalo Sabres, which, through the predictive power of Murphy's Law, will probably result in a three-point game that the Canes win.

The Flyers are still battling to lock up the No. 1 spot in the Eastern conference, leading the Washington Capitals by just one point. With home-ice on the line, it's doubtful the Bullies will pull any punches on the 3rd, metaphorical or literal. Safe to say the Rangers will need to up their intensity level or they'll risk yet another disappointing loss at the hands of a rival.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Islanders

March, 31, 2011
Mama said there'd be days like this, but that doesn't make them any easier for fans of the Blueshirts. Here's a quick rundown of the bad news the Rangers endured in their 1-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

" The Sabres have now matched the Rangers with 87 points and moved into a seventh-place tie.

" The Carolina Hurricanes waxed the Montreal Canadiens, 6-2, to close within three points of the Rangers/Sabres and the final playoff seed, while the loss means the Rangers missed a chance to tie the Habs in sixth.

" Henrik Lundqvist's strong, one-goal-allowed effort was squandered in his 21st consecutive start, a number that matches his career high.

It looks like it will be a grind indeed for the final playoff spots in the East and the Rangers' bitter rivals will not make it any easier on them Wednesday night. Here's what to watch for when the Blueshirts battle the New York Islanders.

E Is For 'Effort'

After Wednesday's loss, head coach John Tortorella called the Rangers' effort in the first two periods "unacceptable." They were outshot 12-3 to start the first and never really mounted any serious pressure against Buffalo backup Jhonas Enroth, who recorded his first career shutout while filling in for all-star Ryan Miller. After a few whip-cracks from Tortorella, expect a rededicated effort from the Rangers tonight.

Who Put Out the Red Light?

After a three-game stretch that saw the Rangers average over five goals per game -- a span that started with a six-goal night against the Islanders March 15 -- they have averaged under a goal per game through the last four contests. That's largely been the story this season for the Rangers; the faucet is either flooding the apartment or trickling down the drain. After looking like he was about to catch fire with five goals and an assist from March 9 through 20, Marian Gaborik has disappeared. With 11 other forwards on the ice every night, it might be unfair to lay the blame entirely at his skates, but $7.5 million per season tends to make you ask, "what's going on?" when a star isn't producing.

The Isles' Outage

The Rangers aren't the only team struggling to score, as the Isles tallied more than one goal for the first time in two games Wednesday night in a 3-2 loss to the Devils. The drought didn't seem to bother Frans Nielsen, who notched both of the Islander goals Wednesday. With a career high 13 goals and 44 points, combined with his defensive contributions (plus-14 on a team with a minus-32 goal differential), Nielsen might be the most underrated player in the NHL. And he's a steal for the Islanders too -- he will remain under contract for just $525K next season. Cha-ching! Party on, Garth.

Feeling a Draft

The Islanders' decent stretch run has been encouraging for a struggling franchise, but it may also end up hurting their draft position. With Florida in a free fall (six straight losses) the Islanders are now tied for the fifth pick in the draft, pending the outcome of the lottery. As we discussed a little while back in this blog, you play to win, but that doesn't change the fact that most NHL scouts see this draft class as four-deep with elite NHL prospects. After that the future gets a little murkier. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sean Couturier and Gabriel Landeskog are the top forwards in the class, with Swedish D Adam Larsson as the top D. After that, Insider's Gare Joyce ranks centers Ryan Strome (Niagara - OHL) and Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John - QMJHL) as the next two talents. Both are strong players and could develop to be better than the top four -- the draft is always a crap shoot -- but right now, scouts seem to be convinced there's a clear upper crust ... and the Islanders may just miss out.

Rangers close in on playoff bid

March, 28, 2011
After some doubt following an untimely skid, the Rangers’ playoff chances are looking pretty strong at the moment after going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Leading the Carolina Hurricanes by seven points, the Rangers are likely to far exceed the 90-point threshold for the season and have even matched the sixth-place Canadiens with 87 points.

The Canes, meanwhile, essentially need to pick up at least one point over their next seven games to keep pace. That should be a rather tough test for Carolina, with five of their remaining seven opponents currently rating as playoff teams. If they lose four of those games in regulation, even without the Rangers adding another point, the Canes would be eliminated.

If there’s a downside for the Blueshirts it could be that what might be their best possible first-round matchup may be slipping away. A 2 vs. 7 series against the Washington Capitals would probably be the best bet for the Rangers to advance, given their success against Alex Ovechkin and Co. this season. New York won the season series three games to one, with a goal differential of 17-6. In the last three meetings between the teams, Washington has scored just one goal.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Sharks

March, 11, 2011
Having lost (to put it mildly) in Anaheim Wednesday and with the Buffalo Sabres picking up two points against the Boston Bruins Thursday night, the Rangers are in desperate need of some points when they next suit up Saturday against the San Jose Sharks. Here’s what to watch for when the action starts at the Shark Tank.


Following the loss to Anaheim, the Rangers pretty much admitted they got outworked. My esteemed colleague E.J. Hradek had an interesting theory the other day as to why the Rangers are suddenly hitting a bit of a wall and the wins aren’t coming the way they used to. It’s not that the Rangers haven’t been skating to their full effort level or that they’re particularly fatigued late in the season. Rather, it’s that the rest of the NHL has now raised its compete level to match the Blueshirts down the stretch. Whereas before the Rangers could simply outwork a team who might not have been giving 100 percent, when that factor levels off, talent is shining through. That only makes it more imperative that they don’t back off the throttle against a skill-laden team like the Sharks.

At Least Get To OT

The Rangers now find themselves tied with the Sabres and, pending the outcome of the Carolina Hurricanes’ game against the Washington Capitals Friday night, may find themselves in ninth place Saturday morning. (Teams who have played fewer games are placed higher in the standings.) The Blueshirts need points any way they can get them, a factor that’s given the Sabres and Canes so much help. Buffalo has eight OT losses on the season, while Carolina has 10. The Rangers? Just four. That’s partially because the Rangers tend to win their shootouts, which is good news for getting two points. But, it sure would be nice to at least assure themselves of one.

Gabby Gets His Groove Back?

Marian Gaborik notched a PP goal against Anaheim and looked pretty sharp in the last home game against the Flyers. Maybe the high-flying winger is about to breakthrough and return to his usual high-volume goal-scoring ways. That would certainly be nice, because he’s the only Ranger who can match the talent of Sharks stars Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton.

Rangers clip Canes, Marc Staal hurt

February, 23, 2011
The Rangers held on to sole possession of seventh place in the East with a 4-3 shootout win against the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night. Of course the Blueshirts may be faced with an equally big loss.

Staal Suffers Knee Injury

Marc Staal twisted his knee in the first period but gritted through it for 20 minutes of ice time before leaving the game. Head coach John Tortorella said after the game that it was “not real serious” according to the AP report, but anything involving the health of the Rangers’ No. 1 defenseman has to have folks a little antsy.

His knee is sure to get a good test Friday against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.

Shootouts = Winning Time

If the Rangers make the playoffs they may actually owe it to the shootout. (A nice thought after last season’s disappointment in the regular season finale.) The Blueshirts are a league-best 7-2 in shootouts, tied with the Los Angeles Kings. And if you wanted a tie-breaker to the NHL’s, uh, tie-breaker, you can give the nod to New York, who edged the Kings in the shootout last week.

Gaborik Update

The update is that there is no update. And that doesn’t seem likely to change.

After an examination in New York, the Rangers offered no new information on the status of Marian Gaborik or any timetable for a return. As you’ve no doubt seen this season with Sidney Crosby, return dates from concussions are incredibly murky. Basically, Gaborik won’t be on the ice until he is. The Rangers need to prepare themselves accordingly.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Hurricanes

February, 22, 2011
The Blueshirts clash with the Canes in Carolina. Here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops.

Stand And Deliver

I’m a big believer in finding big meaning in small events. That’s not to say I’m like the plastic-bag kid in “American Beauty,” but when two teams go head-to-head for one of the conference’s final playoff spots, I think how the teams play says a lot about how things will unfold down the stretch.

Ganas. Chutzpah. Pick your pet term for desire and intrepid action. If the Rangers don’t add any more high-end scoring through a trade and if Marian Gaborik doesn’t return to the ice (and to form) soon, the Blueshirts are going to have to grind for every goal. That takes a lot of energy and endurance. Working in the Rangers’ favor has been a schedule with a few long gaps between games. After Sunday’s loss to the Flyers, Marc Staal told me he feels pretty good stamina wise, better than at this time last season. That could be key both tonight (the Rangers’ fourth game in six days) and during the home stretch in March/early April.

Keep Rolling Hank The Tank?

Henrik Lundqvist has started five straight games and if he gets the nod tonight in Carolina it will equal his longest consecutive-start streak of the season. Lundqvist has stood up to a (very) heavy work load in the past, and it makes sense that the Rangers would want their No. 1 netminder between the pipes tonight against the Canes. But if you don’t start Martin Biron here, when do you give Lundqvist his next night off? Friday the Rangers play the Washington Capitals, while Sunday the square off against the Tampa Bay Lightning, both with big-time offensive threats. If he starts tonight, I circled Tuesday, March 4 against the Buffalo Sabres as the next likely off night for Lundqvist. It will be interesting to see if head coach John Tortorella rests Lundqvist before that, or if Lundqvist can stand up to the work load. For the second question, the smart money is on "yes."

Who’s Going To Step Up?

Gaborik may not have been producing on par with his career norm, but he was the Rangers’ leading point scorer since their skid started Jan. 25 (1 G, 7 A). The Rangers could certainly use a big effort from dynamic forward Mats Zuccarello and recently-acquired Wojtek Wolski Tuesday night. And a return to early-season form for (the battered) Brian Boyle (2 G, 1 A in the last 10 games) could go a long way as well. Matched with Derek Stepan and Sean Avery Sunday, Zuccarello’s line seemed to be the team’s best. Perhaps they’ll be able to carry that effort over to Tuesday.

New Jersey Devils' playoff odds

February, 15, 2011
Do you believe in unlikelihoods?

After the disastrous start to the season by the New Jersey Devils, we’ve mentioned several times that the boys from Newark would need to mount an epic winning streak to put themselves back in the playoff picture. Well, one 12-1-2 stretch later, the Devils are one of the hottest teams in the league and suddenly the word “playoffs” can be uttered without doing a Jim Mora impersonation.

That still doesn’t mean a berth in the postseason is likely. The Devils remain 14 points out of the playoff picture, with a game in hand over the eighth-place Carolina Hurricanes. If the Canes continue at their season-long clip, they’ll put up 89 points this season, meaning the 90-point threshold we predicted way back at the start of the season should hold. To get to 90 points though, the Devs need to rip off another torrid stretch.

In order to reach 90, New Jersey needs to put up 42 points over their final 26 games, a pace that’s about .3 points per game better than the East-leading Philadelphia Flyers have posted this season. At a bare minimum -- meaning no regulation losses at all -- the Devils would need to post 16 wins (and 10 OT losses) to make up those 42 points. Any regulation loss and they’ll need to add another to the win column to compensate. Lose more than five games for the remainder of the season and the Devs would need current playoff teams to back it up and fall off their current points pace.

So, like I said, not impossible, but it would still rank among hockey’s more miraculous feats of the past several seasons.

Helping the Devils’ cause: 16 of the remaining 26 games are against teams in 7th place or worse in the Eastern Conference. That includes two games apiece against the Canes, Atlanta Thrashers and New York Rangers, in addition to one final contest against the Buffalo Sabres. Those teams comprise the fringe of the playoff field right now, making the next three games (Wednesday vs. the Hurricanes, Friday vs. the Rangers and Saturday at Carolina against the Canes) positively crucial. And of course that makes Martin Brodeur's injury all the worse.

A long shot? Absolutely. But it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility. And after the way the Devils started the season, that’s not too shabby.

Tedenby emerges as Devils' unlikely hero

February, 8, 2011

NEWARK, N.J. -- Coming off a third-period benching in Montreal against the Canadiens on Sunday afternoon, New Jersey Devils rookie left winger Mattias Tedenby was the last player you would expect to be absent from the ice during Tuesday morning's optional skate.

But while most of his teammates were honing their skills before a critical game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Prudential Center, Tedenby was nowhere to be found, instead opting to stay home and rest.

Smart move, kid.

Bold. But smart.

Eventually, the 20-year-old did make his way to the rink before game time and ended up scoring two goals, including the game-winner with 2:18 left in overtime, lifting the Devils to a dramatic 3-2 comeback victory over the Hurricanes.

AP Photo/Julio CortezTwo goals? Yep, that's reason for Mattias Tedenby to celebrate.

"Yeah, of course it's nice to score and nice to get two points again," said the soft-spoken Swede, who tallied his sixth and seventh goals of the season, his first in eight games. "We keep winning and that’s a very fun thing. We enjoy it more."

Although Tedenby wouldn't admit to it, his time playing for interim coach Jacques Lemaire has been anything but enjoyable. Tedenby was a healthy scratch just three games ago, and did not suit up for the first six games after Lemaire stepped in to replace John MacLean.

"I thought he was good in the offensive zone with the puck," said Lemaire, who believes Tedenby’s defense still leaves much to be desired. "He was making things happen. He was probably the second-best, even the best offensive player tonight overall. But the thing is, there's certain shifts he didn't go on. That line [Jason Arnott and Vladimir Zharkov] was going and they were in our end every time they went on. That's why he probably had 10 minutes [of ice time]."

Tedenby made the most of what little opportunity he was given. After receiving a drop pass from Travis Zajac in the Carolina zone, Tedenby sped in and beat Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward with a wrist shot between the circles at 2:42 of the extra session, capping off an improbable win, one which brought the Devils to within 15 points of Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"Teddy has to improve a little bit in certain areas," Lemaire said. "But offensively he's really good."

Tedenby’s first goal of the game -- his first since Jan. 17 -- came at 11:33 of the second period. Following a fortuitous bounce off the end boards on Colin White's shot from the left point, Tedenby was stationed right in front to receive Arnott's backhanded pass through the crease and tap it into the net.

"It was a great play by him," Tedenby said of Arnott. "Very nice play."

It was a moment Tedenby needed with his confidence waning.

Lemaire wouldn't disclose why he benched Tedenby in the third period in Montreal, saying "it's personal."

Tedenby must've taken the message to heart. And by that he must’ve taken it to mean he should stay home for Tuesday morning's optional skate.

"Most young guys would come," Lemaire said. "But I gave him the option to stay home. So he stayed home."

Should that trend continue?

"For him, maybe," Lemaire said. "Not for other guys."