Thursday, January 23, 2014
W2W4: Rangers vs. Blues
By Katie Strang
At a glance: Coming off a 5-3 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday night, the Rangers look to bounce back against one of the top teams in the league Thursday at Madison Square Garden. The 27-22-3 Blueshirts will host the 33-11-5 St. Louis Blues as they aim to get back on track before this weekend’s Stadium Series match at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx. The Rangers will have Henrik Lundqvist, who missed Tuesday’s game with the flu, back in goal, as well as a new face on defense. The team acquired veteran defenseman Kevin Klein in a trade with Nashville Wednesday in exchange for beleaguered young blue-liner Michael Del Zotto.
New guy: The Rangers finally addressed what has been a pressing need ever since Michael Sauer was felled by a serious concussion over two years ago: a right-handed defenseman. Klein’s addition to the back end provides the unit with significantly more balance, allowing third-pair defenseman John Moore to move back to his natural left side. With Klein, who is in the first of a five-year $14.5 million deal, they’ll now have three right-handed shots. “It’s just gonna give our D corps a much better look in my estimation,” coach Alain Vigneault said in Tuesday morning’s pregame press briefing. ”We’ll see tonight.”
Klein, who is a solid two-way player that can kill penalties, will start on the third pairing with Moore against the Blues.
Strength in net: Lundqvist will return to the nets Tuesday night after feeling ill on Tuesday. He’ll do so on an impressive stretch. The 2012 Vezina Trophy Winner is 7-2-1 with a 1.97 goals against average, .937 save percentage and one shutout in his last 10 appearances.
Tread lightly: Though the Blues have experienced a dip in play lately, the Rangers know better than to underestimate what has been a superior squad pretty much all season. The Blues have dropped four of the last six games, including an absolute drubbing from a goal-starved New Jersey Devils team that gave them a 7-1 shellacking Tuesday night. “We expect their best,” said captain Ryan Callahan Tuesday morning.