The New York Rangers are coming off a 3-1 Western road swing and are finally going to play their first game at Madison Square Garden this year.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, who come into tonight's matchup boasting a 5-2-1 record along with the NHL's leader in goals and points thus far (Phil Kessel), should be a solid test for the Rangers early in the season. A win tonight would do a lot for the confidence of the team, and give New York a 4-1 record in its last five games.
Here are the keys to the game:
Defense, Defense, Defense: The Rangers's defense will have their hands full with a dangerous Maple Leafs' offense tonight. Sauer should help relieve some of that pressure, but it's going to take a complete effort on defense in order to stall a Toronto offense that has averaged over three goals a game thus far this season. Henrik Lundqvist is expected to get the start, and hopefully won't be tested too many times tonight.
Offense Needs To Come To Play: Although the Maple Leafs have averaged over three goals a game, they have given up more goals (27) then they have scored (26). The Rangers offense has shown that it can be lethal in spurts, now it's time to play that was for an entire game. Ryan Callahan might have had his best game of the year in the victory over the Winnipeg Jets last week, so tonight will be a big test to see if he can keep that momentum moving forward.
Official New York Rangers press release, and the other keys below the jump.
Keep The Power Play Dangerous: Both goals in the Rangers 2-1 victory over the Jets came via the man advantage. And while the unit still looks lost at times, there have been visible improvements from the first few games of the year. Michael Del Zotto is starting to gain more confidence at the point, Brad Richards is starting to learn the unit's patterns and the Rangers are finally putting players in front of the net. The Maple Leafs are too good of a team for the Rangers not to convert their chances with the man advantage.
Hockey Is Half Physical: The Maple Leafs are a rough and tough team, so they won't be shying away from contact tonight. Guys like Brandon Prust, Mike Rupp and even Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh are going to have to be ready to step up when the time comes. I fully expect a few fights and some liberties to be taken tonight, the Rangers need to be there to answer the call when it happens.
NEW YORK RANGERS vs. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Thursday, Oct. 27, 7:00 p.m.
Madison Square Garden - New York, New York
Rangers: 3-2-2 (8 pts)
Maple Leafs: 5-2-1 (11 pts)
* All information through NHL games on Oct. 25
The Rangers will begin a six-game homestand when they face-off against their Original Six rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in their 2011-12 regular season home opener. The Blueshirts currently rank fourth in the Atlantic Division standings, and 10th in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 3-2-2 (8 pts). The Rangers enter tomorrow's contest having defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 2-1, on Monday at MTS Centre, and have now won three of their last four games. New York completed their season-opening, seven-game road trip with a record of 3-2-2 (8 pts), including a 3-1-0 mark on their four-game Western Canada swing. The Maple Leafs enter the contest with a 5-2-1 (11 pts) record to rank third in the Eastern Conference, and have lost two of their last three games. Following tomorrow's contest, the Rangers will face-off against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Madison Square Garden (3:00 p.m.), as they continue their six-game homestand.
RANGERS PRACTICE SCHEDULE:
Prior to tomorrow's contest, the Blueshirts' morning skate is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Madison Square Garden. Head Coach John Tortorella will be available to the media following the team's morning skate in the Press Conference Room / Media Dining area, located on the fifth floor of Madison Square Garden.
* Schedule and availability subject to change
- TV: MSG Network
6:30 p.m. - Rangers Pre-Game Show with Al Trautwig and Brian Leetch
7:00 p.m. - Rangers vs. Maple Leafs
Broadcasters: Sam Rosen (Play-By-Play), Joe Micheletti (Analyst), John Giannone (In-Game Reporter)
· Radio: 970 The Apple and newyorkrangers.com
6:30 p.m. - Rangers Pre-Game Show
7:00 p.m. - Rangers vs. Maple Leafs
Broadcasters: Kenny Albert (Play-By-Play), Dave Maloney (Analyst)
RANGERS vs. MAPLE LEAFS:
· All-Time: 218-270-95-6 overall (127-109-56-3 at home; 91-161-39-3 on the road)
· 2011-12: Tonight marks the first of four meetings this season, and the first of two meetings at Madison Square Garden.
· Last Season: New York was 3-0-1 overall, including a 1-0-1 mark at home. The Rangers shutout the Maple Leafs twice in the season series and out-scored Toronto, 14-5, in four games, including a seven-goal performance by the Blueshirts on Jan. 19. Marian Gaborik registered a hat trick with four goals, and added an assist in the 7-0 win vs. Toronto on Jan. 19. Artem Anisimov tied Gaborik for the team lead with five points (one goal, four assists) in the series, and Brian Boyle tied for the team-high with four goals in four games.
· New York is the only team in the NHL that has not skated in a home game yet this season; Toronto is tied for 23rd with a 1-2-0 (2 pts) mark on the road
· The Rangers have not faced a Northeast Division opponent this season; the Maple Leafs are 0-1-0 vs. the Atlantic Division
· Henrik Lundqvist has posted a 9-4-4 record with a 2.54 GAA and two shutouts in 17 career regular season contests vs. Toronto; Martin Biron is 13-11-2-3 with a 2.69 GAA and one shutout in 31 career regular season games vs. the Maple Leafs
· Brad Richards leads the Rangers with 16 goals, 14 assists and 30 points in 30 career regular season contests vs. Toronto; Marian Gaborik has tallied 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 11 games vs. the Maple Leafs, and Brandon Dubinsky as recorded 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 15 games vs. Toronto
· New York lists one former Maple Leaf on their roster: Kris Newbury (2006-07 - 2008-09)
· Toronto lists one former Ranger on their roster: Colton Orr (2005-06 - 2008-09)
- Power Play: The Rangers tallied two goals in five power play opportunities (7:09) on Monday at Winnipeg, and have now registered three power play goals in the last three games (3-12, 25.0%). New York ranks 27th overall (3-28, 10.7%) through seven games. The Rangers are 0-2 (1:05) in five-on-three situations (last - 10/22 at EDM), and 0-1 (0:40) when four-on-three (last - 10/8 at ANA). Shorthanded goals allowed (0).
- Penalty Killing: The Blueshirts held the Jets scoreless in one shorthanded situation (1:17) on Monday at Winnipeg, and are now 16-18 (88.9%) in the last four games. New York ranks 12th overall (32-37, 86.5%) through seven games. The Rangers are 2-2 (0:44) in three-on-five situations (last - 10/15 at NYI), and 0-1 (1:17) when three-on-four (last - 10/7 at LAK). Shorthanded goals for (1): 10/20 at CGY (Prust).
- Four-on-Four: New York did not tally/yield a goal in one four-on-four situation (0:43) on Monday at Winnipeg, and are now plus-two in 15 four-on-four situations (24:46). Four-on-four goals for (2): 10/18 at VAN (Gaborik); 10/20 at CGY (McDonagh). Four-on-four goals allowed (0).
- The Rangers have posted a record of 36-32-16 in 84 home openers all-time at Madison Square Garden
- The Blueshirts enter tonight's contest with a franchise record, seven-game point streak in home openers, having posted a record of 4-0-1-2 in their last seven home-opening games at Madison Square Garden dating back to the 2003-04 season - Oct. 16, 2003 vs. ATL (0-0), Oct. 6, 2005 vs. MTL (3-4, OT), Oct. 5, 2006 vs. WSH (5-2), Oct. 4, 2007 vs. FLA (5-2), Oct. 10, 2008 vs. CHI (4-2), Oct. 3, 2009 vs. OTT (5-2), and Oct. 15, 2010 vs. TOR (3-4, OT); New York also registered a seven-game point streak in home openers from 1972-73 to 1978-79 (5-0-2-0)
- New York established franchise records for most goals for and largest margin of victory in a home opener with a 7-0 win vs. Toronto on Nov. 20, 1932
- The Blueshirts have posted nine shutouts all-time in home openers, with the last shutout in a home-opening game on Oct. 16, 2003 vs. Atlanta (Mike Dunham, 0-0); Andy Aitkenhead has posted a franchise record, two shutouts in home openers (Nov. 20, 1932 vs. Toronto and Nov. 18, 1934 vs. St. Louis)
ORIGINAL SIX SINCE 2005-06
New York has posted a record of 46-25-12 (104 pts) against Original Six opponents since the 2005-06 season, including a 14-6-4 mark vs. Toronto over the span. The Rangers' .627 winning percentage ranks second, trailing Detroit (.698%, 41-16-6) and ahead of Montreal (.617%, 68-40-12), Toronto (.512%, 53-50-18), Boston (.504%, 53-52-18), and Chicago (.477%, 27-30-9).
The Rangers finished their season-opening seven-game road trip with a 3-2-2 mark. The trip set a new franchise record for longest stretch away from Madison Square Garden to begin a season, breaking the old record of five games set in 1952-53 and 1953-54. It was only the seventh time in franchise history that the Rangers had a road trip of seven games or longer at any point in the season - 1955-56 (4-4-1-0), 1959-60 (1-5-1-0), 1981-82 (5-1-2-0), 1984-85 (0-6-1-0), 1987-88 (4-2-1-0), and 1997-98 (2-3-2-0) - and the third time they posted a winning record on such a trip (1981-82, 1987-88). The Blueshirts will open their home schedule tomorrow vs. Toronto, their latest home opener since they opened the 1948-49 season on Oct. 27, 1948 (excluding the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season).
New York completed their four-game Western Canada road trip with a 3-1-0 record. The Rangers began the trip by defeating Vancouver (4-0) and Calgary (3-2, OT), marking the first time the team has won in those two cities in the same season since 1986-87. On Monday, the Blueshirts visited Winnipeg for the first time since they faced the former Winnipeg Jets franchise on Nov. 17, 1995 (3-6). New York came away with a 2-1 victory, marking the first time they won in Winnipeg since Nov. 21, 1992 (5-4).
Defenseman Dan Girardi enters tonight's contest leading the NHL in average ice time, logging 28:13 per contest. He has logged 30:00+ of ice time twice this season, including a season-high 31:25 of ice time on Oct. 8 against Anaheim in Stockholm, Sweden.
The Rangers had three players make their Rangers debut in the team's season opener on Oct. 7 against the Kings - Tim Erixon (NHL debut), Brad Richards (one assist) and Mike Rupp. In addition, defenseman Jeff Woywitka made his Rangers debut on Oct. 15 at Long Island, while defenseman Brendan Bell made his Blueshirts debut on Saturday at Edmonton.
- The Rangers have posted a record of 284-272-93 all-time in the month of October, including a 176-117-48 mark at home and a 108-155-45 record on the road. New York (3-2-2) is scheduled to play 10 games during the season's opening month in 2011-12, with three games being contested at MSG and seven scheduled on the road.
- Legendary Rangers' defenseman Brian Leetch holds the franchise record for most points in the month of October, having registered 43 goals and 130 assists for 173 career points in the season's opening month.
- The Blueshirts' all-time leader for most career wins in the month of October is Mike Richter, who registered 40 career wins during the season's opening month. Henrik Lundqvist has recorded 35 career wins during the month of October.
- New York has posted two, seven-game winning streaks in the month of October, winning seven consecutive games during the season's opening month in 2009-10 (Oct. 3 vs. Ottawa to Oct. 17 at Toronto) and 1988-89 (Oct. 16 vs. Vancouver to Oct. 30 vs. Pittsburgh).
COUNTDOWN TO 2,500 WINS
The Rangers are currently 13 wins shy of 2,500 wins, having won 2,487 games all-time in franchise history.
MILESTONES IN SIGHT:
- Brian Boyle: 4 games from 200th NHL career
- Wojtek Wolski: 5 games from 400th NHL career; 9 goals from 100th NHL career
MILESTONES RECENTLY ACHIEVED:
- Brad Richards: 500th career NHL assist (10/20 at CGY)
- Marc Staal (concussion, IR on 10/5) - 7
Total Man-Games Lost: 16
- Oct. 25 - Assigned defenseman Brendan Bell to Connecticut (AHL)