The New York Rangers are playing some pretty good hockey. In fact, New York is 12-2 in its last 14 games, a stretch dating back to late October.
Tonight, the Rangers are facing one of the teams who got the better of them at home, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers are going to try to extend their win streak to six games tonight, and here is how they can do it.
Phil Kessel Is Still Really Good: Anyone who thought Kessel might fall off the map after a hot start is currently busy eating their words. The Toronto forward has 32 points and 16 goals (he leads the NHL in both categories) but only has three assists his past five games. Still, that means he's overdue for a goal, and if the Rangers let him anywhere near Henrik Lundqvist unguarded that's exactly what will happen.
The Sean Avery Factor: I don't bring Avery into these keys too often, but the Leafs are one of the teams who Avery seems to have a significant effect on. Hopefully Avery can do that tonight, along with adding a scoring punch as well. He's been solid with not taking penalties and drawing a few as well, here's to that continuing tonight.
Join me after the jump for more keys and the Rangers official pregame notes.
Power Up The Power Play: See what I did there? Yes? OK, good. Anyway, the Rangers have been successful on the power play the past few games, and that needs to continue tonight. Thus far the Rangers have had good puck movement, solid shots and, most importantly, goals. The Rangers have seen their defensive corps coming up with points, which is good, and the more Brad Richards gets comfortable with his teammates the better he will be. The Leafs are a good offensive team, and the Rangers need to be ready to get on them early tonight. The easiest way to do that is by scoring on the power play.
Keep The Momentum: Just like in my keys to the matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Rangers need to keep playing inspired hockey. The Rangers were down by scores of 1-0 and 2-1, and still were able to keep their mentality in the right place to tie, and eventually win, the game. That type of confidence continues to grow from game to game, so a win tonight would keep the ball rolling.
Rangers pregame notes below.
* All information through NHL games on Dec. 3
The Rangers will face-off against the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in an Original Six matchup. The Blueshirts currently rank second in the Atlantic Division standings, and fourth in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 15-5-3 (33 pts). The Rangers enter the contest having defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-2, on Saturday at St. Pete Times Forum to extend their winning streak to five games, and have won 12 of their last 14 contests. The Maple Leafs enter the contest with a 14-10-2 (30 pts) record to rank sixth in the Eastern Conference, and have lost their last two games. Following tomorrow's contest, the Rangers will face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, Dec. 8, at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in the first of three games in four days.
RANGERS PRACTICE SCHEDULE:
Prior to tomorrow's contest, the Rangers' morning skate is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at Madison Square Garden. Head Coach John Tortorella will be available to the media at 11:45 a.m. in the Press Conference Room, located on the fifth foor 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: 1050 ESPN Radio 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: 218-271-95-6 overall (127-110-56-3 at home; 91-161-39-3 on the road)
* 2011-12: Tonight is the second of four meetings this season, and the second and final at Madison Square Garden. New York is 0-1-0 following a 4-2 loss on Oct. 27 in their home opener at Madison Square Garden. Defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi tallied both of the Rangers' goals, and Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves.
* Last Season: New York was 3-0-1 overall, including a 1-0-1 mark at home. The Rangers out-scored Toronto, 14-5, in the season series, including a 7-0 win on Jan. 19 at MSG, in which Marian Gaborik posted a five-point performance (four goals, one assist). 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. Henrik Lundqvist registered a 2-0-1 record with a 1.31 GAA, .958 Sv% and two shutouts in three games, and Martin Biron was 1-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .960 Sv% in one game.
* New York ranks 11th with a 7-1-1 (15 pts) record at home; Toronto is tied for eighth with an 8-6-0 (16 pts) mark on the road
* The Rangers have posted a 2-2-1 record vs. Northeast Division opponents; the Maple Leafs are 3-1-0 vs. the Atlantic Division
* Henrik Lundqvist has posted a 9-5-4 record with a 2.62 GAA and two shutouts in 18 career regular season games 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 31 career regular season games vs. Toronto; Marian Gaborik has tallied 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 12 career regular season contests vs. the Maple Leafs
* New York lists two former Maple Leafs on their roster: John Mitchell (2008-09 - 2010-11); Anton Stralman (2007-08 - 2008-09)
* Toronto lists one former Ranger on their roster: Colton Orr (2005-06 - 2008-09)
* Power Play: The Rangers did not tally a goal in two power play opportunities (2:11) on Saturday at Tampa Bay, and are 5-19 (26.3%) in their last five games. New York is tied for 20th overall (14-93, 15.0%) and ranks eighth at home (9-42, 21.4%). The Rangers are 1-9 (7:17) in five-on-three situations (last – 11/29 vs. PIT), and 0-4 (3:46) when four-on-three (last – 11/3 vs. ANA). Shorthanded goals allowed (0).
* Penalty Killing: The Blueshirts held the Lightning scoreless in one shorthanded situation (2:00) on Saturday at Tampa Bay. New York ranks seventh overall (74-87, 85.1%) and is tied for fourth at home (24-27, 88.9%). The Rangers are 2-3 (1:16) in three-on-five situations (last – 11/05 vs. MTL), 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 skate in a four-on-four situation on Saturday at Tampa Bay. The Rangers are plus-three in 28 four-on-four situations (49:13), and even in one three-on-three situation (0:01). Four-on-four goals for (3): 10/18 at VAN (Gaborik); 10/20 at CGY (McDonagh); 10/27 vs. TOR (Girardi). Four-on-four goals allowed (0).
ORIGINAL SIX SINCE 2005-06
New York has posted a record of 47-27-12 (106 pts) against Original Six opponents since the 2005-06 season, including a 14-7-4 mark vs. Toronto over the span. The Rangers' .616 winning percentage ranks second, trailing Detroit (.703%, 42-16-6) and ahead of Montreal (.616%, 71-42-12), Boston (.512%, 57-54-19), Toronto (.504%, 54-53-18) and Chicago (.477%, 27-30-9).
HOME SWEET HOME
New York enters the contest with a seven-game home winning streak, dating back to Oct. 31 vs. San Jose. The Rangers have out-scored their opponents, 26-10, during the streak, having held the opposition to one goal or less in four of the seven games. The Blueshirts' power play is 7-35 (20.0%) over the span, while their penalty kill is 17-19 (89.5%). The Rangers' 7-1-1 start through nine games at Madison Square Garden is their best start at home since they posted a record of 7-1-1 through nine home games to begin the 1992-93 season.
IN THE BLACK
The Blueshirts are tied for second in the NHL with a plus-18 rating while skating at even strength. 23 of the 27 players who have skated for the Rangers this season have posted a plus or even rating. Ryan McDonagh leads the team and is tied for 12th in the NHL with a plus-12 rating. In the league standings, New York ranks fourth with a plus-18 goal differential.
Carl Hagelin tallied a point in four straight games (one goal, three assists) to begin his career following his recall from Connecticut (AHL) on Nov. 24, becoming the first Rangers rookie to begin his career with a four-game point streak since Steven King recorded a point in four consecutive games to begin his career in 1992-93. *courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau
COUNTDOWN TO 2,500 WINS
The Rangers are currently one win shy of 2,500 wins, having won 2,499 games all-time in franchise history.
* The Blueshirts' 33 points through 23 games (15-5-3) is their most since they recorded 34 points in 23 games (16-5-2) to begin the 1993-94 Stanley Cup Championship season
* The Rangers have the fewest regulation losses (five) in the NHL
* New York has out-scored their opponent, 49-28, in their last 14 games (12-2-0), including a 21-11 advantage during their current five-game winning streak
* The Blueshirts are 5-19 (26.3%) in their last five contests, and have posted a record of 10-0-1 in games when tallying a power play goal
* New York is 4-1-0 when leading after the first period and 9-0-1 when leading after the second, including a 4-0-1 mark when leading after two at home
* The Blueshirts are the only team in the NHL who are undefeated when out-shooting their opponents, posting an 8-0-0 mark in those contests
* The Rangers are 7-0-0 all-time in games when Brandon Prust is assessed a fighting major in the opening two minutes
* The Blueshirts own the best record in the NHL when scoring first, posting an 11-1-0 mark (.917 win%) in those contests, and their 11 wins is tied for third in the league
* Henrik Lundqvist is 9-1-0 with a 1.89 GAA, .936 Sv% and one shutout in his last 10 games
* Brad Richards enters the contest with a five-game point streak (four goals, five assists over the span), and has tallied 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in the last 15 games
* Marian Gaborik has tallied 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in the last 16 games, with six points (three goals, three assists) in the last six
* Ryan Callahan has tallied 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in the last 15 games, with seven points (two goals, five assists) in the last five
* Michael Del Zotto has tallied three assists in the last four games
* Ryan McDonagh has tallied six points (one goal, five assists) in the last six games
* Derek Stepan has tallied 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in the last 15 contests
* Artem Anisimov has tallied 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in the last 12 games, with five points (two goals, three assists) in the last five
* Ruslan Fedotenko has tallied four points (three goals, one assist) in the last five games
* Brian Boyle has posted a plus or even rating in 13 straight (plus-eight)
* Rangers' prospect Christian Thomas is one of 41 players invited to participate in Canada's National Junior Team selection camp (Dec. 10-14) for the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship
MILESTONES IN SIGHT:
* Marian Gaborik: 3 assists from 300th NHL career; 5 goals from 300th NHL career
* Dan Girardi: 4 assists from 100th NHL career
* Brad Richards: 5 games from 800th NHL career
* Michael Sauer: 3 games from 100th NHL career
* Marc Staal (concussion, IR on 10/5) - 23
* Mike Rupp (knee, 10/24) - 16
* Wojtek Wolski (groin, 11/3) - 12
Total Man-Games Lost: 60
* Dec. 1 - Assigned forward Andre Deveaux to Connecticut (AHL)