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Thursday, March 13, 2014
W2W4: Rangers vs. Wild

By Katie Strang

At a glance: Coming off one of their worst lack-of-effort losses of the season, the New York Rangers aim to get back on track against the Minnesota Wild in Minnesota Thursday night. With only 16 games remaining in the regular season, the Rangers sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division, though they are only one point ahead of the third-place Columbus Blue Jackets, who have won two straight and host the San Jose Sharks Thursday night. The Wild still do not have a firm grasp on a playoff spot either, currently occupying the first wild card position in the West.

Change in net: Henrik Lundqvist will not get the opportunity to tie Mike Richter’s franchise record 301 NHL wins or surpass Eddie Giacomin’s 49 shutouts Thursday night, as coach Alain Vigneault opted to go with backup Cam Talbot in the front end of the Rangers’ back-to-back set. Talbot has been terrific in relief of Lundqvist this season, posting an 11-5-0 record with a 1.75 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. Talbot faced Minnesota previously this season, making 24 saves in the Rangers’ 4-1 win.

Dreadful effort: Vigneault was understandably displeased with what he saw from his team Tuesday at the Carolina Hurricanes, an uninspired performance that saw the Rangers dominated by an inferior squad that showed both more heart and passion in winning puck battles all night. It should be interesting to see how the Rangers respond after such an embarrassing effort, especially considering they can’t afford to be surrendering such critical points at this time of year.

Still searching: Since the shocking trade that brought veteran forward Martin St. Louis to New York last week, the defending Art Ross Trophy winner has yet to score his first goal as a Ranger. The 38-year-old St. Louis might get a different look on a new line, however. Vigneault hinted at switching things up Thursday, so keep a close eye on where St. Louis ends up skating.

Similar struggles: The Wild are not without their woes, either. Minnesota has dropped two straight in overtime/shootout, the most recent of which was Tuesday’s dispiriting loss to the Edmonton Oilers in which the Wild blew a 3-0 first-period lead before falling 4-3 in the shootout.