At a glance: The Rangers and Red Wings face off Thursday night at Madison Square Garden with only one point standing between the two clubs in the Eastern Conference standings. A surging Rangers squad, that has won eight of its last 11 games, hosts an injury-ravaged Red Wings club that is coming off a trying West Coast swing. The Wings currently sit in ninth place with 50 points behind the eighth-place Rangers heading into the Original Six showdown.
Prior to the game, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault praised the Wings as one of the premier puck possession teams, “It’s unreal how hard those guys work.”
Vigneault said he also feels their net presence is second to none.
M*A*S*H unit: The Red Wings have been hampered by injuries all season and Thursday will be no different as Detroit will be missing several key players –- Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson and Stephen Weiss. Tomas Tatar will also be unavailable, as the young forward was excused by the team to attend his father’s funeral in Slovakia. Goaltender Jimmy Howard is expected to return from a minor hip injury, with Petr Mrazek backing up.
Power outage: Though the Rangers’ power-play has been a source of strength for the team this season, Detroit has struggled with the man-advantage as of late. The Wings enter Thursday’s action looking to snap an 0-for-21 skid over their last five games.
Still streaking: With the Rangers’ lone goal in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay, veteran center Brad Richards is riding a season-high six-game point streak.
Hot hand: Though Henrik Lundqvist will likely get a game off this weekend with the Rangers’ back-to-back set against Ottawa and Washington, the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner will get the nod Thursday against the Wings. After a poor start to the season, Lundqvist has recovered nicely and regained some confidence. He is 3-1-0 with a 1.76 goals against average and .944 save percentage in his last four games.