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W2W4: Rangers vs. Sharks

3/11/2011

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.

Effort

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.