- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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Don't look now, but the Rangers are back to .500 with Thursday night's 4-2 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus. With five victories in the last six games, including back-to-back wins against the Penguins and Blue Jackets the past two nights, the Rangers improved to 8-8-0 on the season.
The latest victory -- which came against many former teammates, given the recent trade history between the Rangers and Blue Jackets -- allowed the Rangers to leapfrog both the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders to claim eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
What's changed for the Blueshirts? Well, they finally returned home to the East Coast after a grueling nine-game road trip to start the season. The Rangers were wary of using that as an excuse, but it's easy to see a markedly different team since they've been back. Perhaps more important has been the return of captain Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin, two offensive catalysts who have sparked the team with their inspired play.
Hagelin notched his second two-goal game of the season Thursday, an impressive feat particularly considering he missed the first 10 with a shoulder injury.
Other positives to take away from Thursday's action?
For the ninth consecutive game, the Rangers gave up two goals or fewer, a clear indication they have cleaned things up in their own end. Whereas the defensive zone was a bit of a disaster to start the season, the team has buckled down on the back end with some stingy efforts of late.
Cam Talbot has proved himself a capable backup with yet another strong performance. The 26-year-old netminder showed poise and confidence in turning away 32 shots from Columbus in only his fourth NHL game.
Unfortunately, on a night where Rick Nash's absence loomed ominously, the team saw Taylor Pyatt leave the game with what appeared to be a head injury caused by a nasty elbow he received from former Ranger Fedor Tyutin. Pyatt left the game in the second period and did not return. For the hit, Tyutin will likely receive a call from league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.