The Rangers are deep in NASCAR Nation right now for tonight's game against the Carolina Hurricanes (7:00pm, MSG). For anyone who may be in the Raleigh area, bring a few extra bucks with you as the Canes are hosting St. Baldrick’s Night, a great fundraiser where guys get their heads shaved to earn money for childhood cancer research.
Where We Are: As mentioned in the last game wrap, the Blueshirts are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, and 2-7-1 in Michael Del Zotto's last 10 ... just sayin'. But as easy as it would be to beat up the kid, the lack of success hasn't been his fault. The cause of the slide rests entirely on the shoulders of the head coach, as John Tortorella couldn't bring the injured vets back into the lineup smoothly enough to keep the team's momentum going. He jumbled lines and altered ice times, screwing up all chemistry and sending this team into a nosedive that he seems to have no way to stop.
Where They Are: Carolina is going through a rough patch as well - going 2-2-1 in their last five (with both regulation losses coming against the Devils) and 3-5-2 in their last 10 - but they remain two points behind the seventh place Rangers with a game in hand. The Buffalo Sabres have three games in hand on the Rangers and are bearing down on the Hurricanes, four points back.
Who To Watch For: Calder candidate Jeff Skinner has five points in the Canes three games against the Rangers this season so he leads the way. The former figure skater has been a revelation this season and is dangerous every time he steps on the ice. Tuomo Ruutu, Sergei Samsonov and Erik Cole have historically had success when facing the Blueshirts and Marc's brother Eric is always tough but our Staal should be able to handle him.
What To Watch For: Cam Ward breaking his 13 game streak of allowing two or more goals - he has allowed less than two just once in his last 22 and that once came ... you guessed it, against the Rangers on January 20th. The Rangers to go back to a real north-south offense without Marian Gaborik and to pick up their forecheck as Carolina will be without the injured Joni Pitkanen and the traded Ian White and they still employ Uh Oh Corvo. No fisticuffs - Troy Bodie and Jay Harrison are pretty much the only ones to throw down for Carolina and they don't do it on daily basis.
What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Rangers to get an early lead and keep pressing the advantage. No soft goals allowed by Hank. With Kris Newbury around, the team to win some more faceoffs. Without Gaborik the team to shoot more on the power play instead of looking for the Slovak sniper. Boyle, Prust and Avery to get back some of the ice time they have worked so hard to earn. Cally to out Chad LaRose Chad LaRose. And, if it comes down to it, our shootout specialist (Mr. Softie Erik Christensen) to score while theirs doesn't (Jussi Jokinen).
Also Check Out: Red and Black Hockey, Canes Country and Canes Now.