Tonight the Rangers play the Vancouver Canucks at 10 PM EST. It will be their first game since Kevin Klein's blast in overtime gave the Rangers a desperately needed win on Monday night at over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Vancouver Canucks are currently second in the outstanding Pacific Division, but they are coming off of a loss to the Montreal Canadiens. They are 5-3-2 in their last ten games and have a record of 18-9-2, which is quite a bit better than the Rangers' record of 12-10-4. They've made quite a bit of a turnaround since from the team they were last year that was coached by former Rangers' bench boss John Torterella. Yes, he actually split up the Sedins at one point.
In the three games that the Canucks have in hand over the Rangers they have scored 11 more goals and have allowed 5 fewer goals. The Canucks are 7-3-1 on their home ice. The big hole in their lineup is defenseman Dan Hamhuis who is out indefinitely with a leg injury. The Rangers have no injuries of note coming into tonight's contest and all of the bumps, scrapes, and bruises that the team might have had (including Chris Kreider's neck spasms) have likely healed up in the four day break between games.
Discipline Against Derek Dorsett
This past offseason the Rangers shipped Dorsett to the Vancouver Canucks for a third round pick. They then went ahead and signed Tanner Glass to a three year contract in what was, without a doubt, the most mystifying and inexplicable move of the offseason for the Blueshirts. This will be the first game that Dorsett plays against his former club since the trade and we all know what kind of player he is. I imagine that he'll be making sure to finish all of his checks against his former teammates and will probably try to get someone to drop the gloves with him. The Rangers haven't had many issues when it comes to retaliating to agitating players like Dorsett but it is a story line coming into tonight's game and it's worth keeping an eye on how Dorsett plays on his new team.
Stopping the Sedin Line
The Sedins have been making some beautiful music with free agent signing Radim Vrbata early this season. The Canucks depend heavily on their three top forwards for their offense both at even strength and on the man advantage (sounds familiar, doesn't it?). Shutting down the Sedin line is the best way for the Blueshirts to come away with a victory tonight on the road. However, we've seen plenty of poor positioning and glaring errors from the Rangers in their own zone and in the transition game to make playing against the puck-savvy Sedins something that we should be seriously concerned about. The Canuck's power play is right in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league, but that doesn't mean it isn't scary. The way that the Sedins move the puck when they have time and space is a nightmare for defenders.
Of course the big news for tonight's game is the fact that Tanner Glass is a healthy scratch for the first time this season (I still can't believe it), J.T. Miller will remain on the second line after scoring a goal on Monday, and Chris Kreider has been demoted to the fourth line with Jesper Fast and Dominic Moore. Matt Hunwick will also be a healthy scratch again which means the Rangers will be dressing John Moore despite the fact that he really didn't have a very good game on Monday. It's already clear that Chris Kreider isn't thrilled with being moved down to the fourth line, but there is no doubt that he has played himself into that role with his lack of production and his one-dimensional game. At this point in his career Kreider simply isn't good enough away from the puck to have in the top six if he isn't finding the back of the net or creating offense. Hopefully this will light a fire under his rear end and he'll take this message to heart.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Chris Kreider on starting tomorrow on 4th line "I don't need anybody to send me a message, I put more pressure on myself than anyone else"</p>— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) <a href="https://twitter.com/NYRangers/status/543535410899456000">December 12, 2014</a></blockquote>
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The Rangers need to do everything they can to start off this four game road trip on the right foot, especially because tonight's game is almost certainly the most difficult one of the stretch. After tonight's contest in Vancouver the Rangers go into Edmonton tomorrow night, Calgary on Tuesday, and then they finish their road tour in Carolina next Saturday. December is filled with games that the Rangers really should win or at least get points out of considering the teams that they are playing. If the Blueshirts start to get on a roll here after their emotional win on Monday night they will be doing themselves a big favor after a very mediocre start to the season. Being just two games above .500 at this point in the season is really not a good thing. It's easy to point to key injuries, sporadic play from the defense, and some bad nights from Henrik Lundqvist, but it's time for the excuses to end and for the quality of play to improve. It's time for the Rangers to start putting together some wins. Hopefully that continues tonight in Vancouver against the Sedin twins, Ryan Miller, and Radim Vrbata.
We waited since Tuesday morning for Rangers hockey, just hang in there until 10 PM guys and gals. Let's go Rangers