Had enough of the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning yet? Too bad! The Rangers finish this bizarre stretch of games against those two opponents with a home matchup against the Lightning tonight at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers are coming off back-to-back impressive wins over the Flyers, which saw Tanner Glass come down with the mumps, Ryan McDonagh return to the lineup, J.T. Miller recalled (and playing great), Jesper Fast's first NHL goal and Dan Boyle being sick with (hopefully just) the flu. Did I miss anything?
Tonight the Rangers have an opportunity to keep that forward momentum going. Including the first disaster against the Lightning the Rangers are 4-2 in their last six including a dominant win over the Montreal Canadiens and the 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay.
Thankfully, tonight is no longer about returns for Ryan Callahan (who loves playing against the Rangers), Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman or Martin St. Louis. Those ceremonies are over, which means everyone can start focusing about hockey instead of wondering what it's going to be like when they visit their own stomping grounds.
Let's not sugarcoat anything, the Rangers need a win against this team badly. The good news is Glass continues to sit (wishing him all the best with the mumps, however) which forces Alain Vigneault to dress an appropriate fourth line that dominated the Flyers in back-to-back games. Miller and Fast seem to have some chemistry, and Dominic Moore doesn't at all seem to mind the new linemates that can actually, you know, possess the puck.
And since one of the biggest issues the Rangers have had is being unable to possess the puck against the Lightning, this might be a good thing. Well, that and Glass not being able to be on the ice for the opposing coach to match up against their top forwards (see the final two Tampa goals on Wednesday).
The other bit of good news is McDonagh returning to action. McDonagh will be matched up against Steven Stamkos which should help him stop embarrassing the Rangers so much. Maybe McDonagh can also keep Callahan away from the front of the net, since Dan Girardi is unable to do so.
The point is the Rangers need to start stringing some wins together. The injuries are not really an excuse anymore now that McDonagh seems to be transitioning back into fully healthy McDonagh. And if you're surprised at the impact he's had on the ice, well, you haven't been watching the Rangers very often. McDonagh changes the entire dynamic of the team.
But he can't do it alone. Especially against a team like the Lightning the Rangers need a good effort top to bottom, similar to what they got against the Flyers in Philadelphia on Friday. Tonight the Rangers just need the two points.
Although it would be nice to finally beat the Lightning, too.