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New York Rangers Game Thread: 2/2, Panthers at Rangers

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The Rangers take back to the Garden ice in the 48th game of the regular season looking to beat up on the Florida Panthers.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Game Forty-Eight, the Florida Panthers at the New York Rangers
Record: 28-15-4

Panthers vs Rangers coverage | NYR roster | Litter Box Cats

Florida has one of the worst offenses in the league and they are 19th in the league in regards to the amount of goals they allow in a game (2.68). Their 21-16-10 record gives them the 20th best record in the NHL. Which, for those of you keeping score at home, is not the record of a playoff hockey club. The Panthers sit at fifth place in the Atlantic Division with 52 points in 47 games played, putting them ahead of the Senators, Leafs, and Sabres. Which really just tells you how bad those teams are doing this year. Oh Maple Leafs, whatever happened to you?

What am I getting at here? The Panthers are starting to head in a positive direction and are getting some contributions from the kids they drafted that are supposed to be the catalysts for changing the culture and expectations in Florida. However, they still have a long way to go. Tonight, the Rangers should have all the tools they need to make it apparent that the Panthers still just aren't quite cut out for the playoffs. The Rangers are coming into tonight's game feeling relieved after stopping a two-game losing skid at the Garden against Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers' dormant offense came to life against the Carolina defense and Cam Ward, the Blueshirts managed to put four goals past him despite being badly out-shot through the first two periods. The recipe that worked for beating up on the Hurricanes should work just fine tonight against the Panthers. The Rangers have to control the puck, put shots on net, and make sure to use their speed and allow their skilled forwards to get room on the ice and do some damage. The Rangers next three games are against much stiffer competition so, as Joe pointed out this morning, tonight's two points are important to grab and run with.

The New York Rangers' February Schedule

2/2 Panthers at the Rangers, 7:00 PM
2/4 Bruins at the Rangers, 8:00 PM
2/7 Rangers at the Predators, 3:00 PM
2/8 Stars at the Rangers, 5:00 PM
2/10 Rangers at the Leafs, 7:00 PM
2/12 Rangers at Avalanche, 9:00 PM
2/14 Rangers at Coyotes, 8:00 PM
2/16 Rangers at Islanders, 7:00 PM
2/19 Canucks at Rangers, 7:00 PM
2/20 Rangers at Sabres, 7:00 PM
2/22 Blue Jackets at Rangers, 7:30 PM
2/24 Flames at Rangers, 7:00 PM
2/26 Coyotes at Rangers, 7:00 PM
2/28 Rangers at Flyers, 8:00 PM

Mike's Player to Watch: Chris Kreider

Kreids picked up a goal on Saturday night against the Hurricanes and was named the second star of the game for playing like the guy a lot of us feel could be a 30 goal scorer one day. Tonight the Rangers will get back on the Garden ice and look to take apart another team that should be "beatable" for them. Kreider will hopefully be a big factor once again. On Saturday night he was taking the body, attacking the net, and drawing penalties. In short; he was a damned nuisance. The Rangers need Kreider to continue to use his speed and strength to open up the ice and make teams that forecheck the Rangers respect their ability to send a player into the offensive zone with speed. Let's see what the kid can do tonight against Roberto Luongo's Panthers.

Let's go Rangers! Drop the puck.