New York Rangers Must Avoid Trap Game Tonight

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 06: Matt Cooke #24 of the Pittsburgh Penguins is checked by Michael Del Zotto #4 and Dan Girardi #5 of the New York Rangers during the NHL game at Consol Energy Center on January 6, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Rangers defeated the Penguins 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Generally the term "trap game" is reserved for when good teams take on lesser opponents. Tonight, however, the New York Rangers will host the Phoenix Coyotes in a trap game, even though the Coyotes are a respectable 20-17-5 this season.

But after the 2012 NHL Winter Classic the Rangers played a Florida Panthers team who called Mike Rupp out after a loss before the Winter Classic and then the Pittsburgh Penguins; two scinarios in which the Rangers didn't need a reason to show up ready to play.

Tonight the Rangers are looking to do the same, except there won't be a divisional rivalry or a pregame war of words to stroke the flames. This time it has to come from within the Rangers themselves.

Join me after the jump for more.

The Rangers' defense, which has been slammed with injuries since the start of the season, seems to be on the mend. And even though Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger remain out of the lineup, the Rangers have gotten three good games out of Marc Staal with better things seemingly on the way.

The Rangers are also seeing a much more balanced offensive output, thanks in large part to a recent four-game period put together by Brad Richards. Brandon Dubinsky seems to be finding his game and the Rangers' blue line is adding some offense as well, which is always a good thing.

Henrik Lundqvist has been on fire, and give a big tip of the hat to Martin Biron too, since Biron has really played well when he's given Lundqvist rests this year. The goaltending has been a big part of the Rangers' success, especially in the early goings when New York was missing Eminger, Staal and Sauer at the same time.

Basically, the Rangers can't afford to let the two points on the table slip through their fingers tonight. The schedule get's tougher after this one, when the Rangers host the Ottawa Senators and then travel to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens.

The Rangers can keep the momentum they have gained on this winning streak by continuing to do just that, win games.

Tonight will be another tough test along the way.

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