Sunday, December 22, 2013
W2W4: Rangers vs. Wild
By Katie Strang
At a glance: Not even a win against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday could salvage what has become an atrocious nine-game homestand at Madison Square Garden for the Blueshirts, but they'll aim to knock their Western Conference foes in hopes of turning things in the right direction.
The Rangers enter Sunday's match with only one (shootout) win through the first seven games of their long stretch at MSG. They've whittled down two-goal deficits in three straight games but have only three points to show for it. Luckily for New York, Minnesota has dropped six of their last seven road games. The Wild are currently without starting goaltender Josh Harding, who was placed on injured reserve this week to deal with complications with his battle with multiple sclerosis. Harding had been outstanding for the Wild all season, posting an 18-5-3 record and a league-leading 1.51 goals-against average.
Change in net: After making his season-high eighth consecutive start in goal Friday night against the Islanders -- a 5-3 loss in which he surrendered four goals on 19 shots -- Henrik Lundqvist will have the night off on Sunday. The Rangers named backup netminder Cam Talbot the starter against the Wild. With back-to-back games -- the Rangers finish up their homestand against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday -- it is expected that Lundqvist will get the next start.
Staal resumes skating: Injured defenseman Marc Staal skated for the first time on Saturday since sustaining a concussion in the Rangers' 4-3 OT loss to the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 7. Staal skated on his own on Saturday and Sunday, though there remains no timetable for his return. The recent development is nonetheless a positive one by Staal, who has been hampered by injuries the past two seasons. He played only 21 games last season because of a harrowing eye injury and missed 36 games the season prior with a concussion.
Familiar foe: When Zach Parise was set to hit the open market as a free agent, he didn't hide his contempt for the Devils' division rivals. Asked if he'd ever consider joining the Blueshirts -- and yes, there was that interest on Broadway -- he gave an unequivocal "no." Suffice it to say, there won't be any love lost when Parise comes back to the Big Apple with his hometown Minnesota Wild. The star forward has only one point in the last five games.