Game Sixty, the
Phoenix Arizona Coyotes at the New York Rangers
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The Rangers found a way to get it done against the Calgary Flames Tuesday night without Rick Nash in the lineup. The big strategy? They tried for some defense against the Flames after seemingly being content with pinball hockey games since Lundqvist has been out of the lineup. Cam Talbot posted his 4th shutout of the season and Kevin Hayes, who has been really special lately, picked up the lone goal of the game early in the third period. Personally, I think it was the new haircut that made the goal happen. Before wrapping up the month of February in Philadelphia on Saturday against the Flyers, the Rangers will be looking to pick up their fourth straight win and twentieth home win of the season against the team with players that will soon be found in a garage sale near you; the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes are 1-8-1 in their last ten games and are ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division, although only be a single point as of Wednesday night (the Oilers also have a game in hand). In other words, they are really, really bad at hockey. Like, crazy bad.
To say that things have gone badly this season in Arizona would be a pretty profound understatement. The Coyotes don't score goals and they allow far too many goals. Just how bad is it? The Coyotes' -72 goal differential is second only to the Buffalo Sabres for the worst goal differential in the league. Yikes. Mike Smith is a terrible and overrated goaltender that has been playing as if he was wearing a blindfold and trying to stop the "essence" of the puck all season after spending too much time in the offseason studying martial arts. That the management in Arizona is ready to blow up the team and sell it for prospects and picks should not come as a surprise given the dismal failure that this season has been for a team that simply can't afford to be this bad.
The Rangers come into tonight's game at the Garden hoping that they'll be getting good news about Rick Nash before the puck drops. They will also be entertaining scouts from around the league and might even be playing against a player or two in the Coyotes' lineup that might soon be skating in a Rangers jersey as a result of the nearing deadline day... (please don't trade for Vermette, please don't trade for Vermette, please don't trade for Vermette...). If the Rangers win tonight it will mean they have 82 points in 60 regular season games. It will also mean that they will draw even with the Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division despite having two games in hand after tonight's game. All of these things are good things. We like good things.
The last time these two teams played each other the Rangers won 5-1 on February 14th. This is the last time these two teams will play each other until next season. This is a team you just have to beat and the Rangers should make sure to tilt the ice and do everything they can to take the heat off of Cam Talbot tonight and make this game a nightmare for the Coyotes.
The New York Rangers' February Schedule
2/2 Panthers at the Rangers, 7:00 PM(win.) 2/4 Bruins at the Rangers, 8:00 PM(win.) 2/7 Rangers at the Predators, 3:00 PM(loss.) 2/8 Stars at the Rangers, 5:00 PM(overtime loss.) 2/10 Rangers at the Leafs, 7:30 PM(I guess it was a win) 2/12 Rangers at Avalanche, 9:00 PM(win.) 2/14 Rangers at Coyotes, 8:00 PM(win.) 2/16 Rangers at Islanders, 7:00 PM(Win!) 2/19 Canucks at Rangers, 7:00 PM(overtime loss.) 2/20 Rangers at Sabres, 7:00 PM(win.) 2/22 Blue Jackets at Rangers, 7:30 PM(SO win.) 2/24 Flames at Rangers, 7:00 PM(win.)2/26 Coyotes at Rangers, 7:00 PM
2/28 Rangers at Flyers, 8:00 PM
Mike's Player to Watch: Mats Zuccarello
If the Rangers move Zuccarello I am going to curl up into a little ball and spend several days searching for a new meaning to life. Zuke is in the headlines of Rangers'-related news for all of the wrong reasons lately. Each and every game he plays up until the deadline is a chance for him to make a statement to Glen Sather and the Rangers. Each game is a chance for him to prove just how valuable and special he is and how big of a mistake it would be to deal him or lose him in the offseason. Keep an eye on Zuke having a big game tonight in front of a Garden crowd that absolutely adores him and the way he plays the game. Go get 'em Zuke.
Let's go Rangers. Drop the puck. Let's take these points.