After that, the 18-8-4 Rangers play two more rivalry games, once again facing off versus the Islanders, (home) and capping off the stretch against the Washington Capitals. (away) All of those games leading up to one battle with the Florida Panthers (away) and then the Winter Classic.
This stretch will be telling about what the Rangers are truly made of. Down two defensemen in Marc Staal and Michael Sauer, the Rangers are relying on the likes of Anton Stralman, and possibly even Stu Bickel to replace the pair. Tim Erixon has been promoted on an emergency basis as well.
The Devils are no easy opponent, as Martin Brodeur leads the rivals, who are only three points behind the Rangers, into the match.
The Islanders, who the Rangers will play twice at home, always seem to play tough games vs. the Blueshirts. Who will play goalie for the Islanders is always a mystery, but the offense remains the same, led by John Tavares, Michael Grabner, and Matt Moulson.
Follow me after the jump for more on the Rangers' upcoming battles.The Rangers also play the Philadelphia Flyers twice in their stretch of rivalry games. The Flyers are the home team for the Winter Classic, and the main rivals of the Rangers. HBO will be watching these games closely, and it's essential for the Rangers to play their game, not the game the TV wants to see.
For the Flyers and Rangers, the Winter Classic will be the ultimate rivalry game. One game, one winner, nothing left on the ice. The Flyers are without Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger, and more, so the injuries cannot be an excuse for the Rangers.
Hopefully the Broadway Hat will be on someone's head after the battle in the freezing cold Citizens Bank Ballpark.
Finally, the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers represent exact opposite ends of the surprise spectrum. The Capitals were expected by many to be the #1 seed around now, and the Panthers were criticized for their acquisitions this off-season.
Despite all of that, the Capitals are among the bottom few in the Eastern Conference, while the Panthers are among the top teams.
Both the Capitals and Panthers will look to avenge recent losses to the Rangers, so the intensity will be there.
For the Rangers, this stretch of games will help make up the identity of the team and the season. Hopefully the picture painted is a pleasant one.