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Tough Stretch Will Show Damaged New York Rangers' True Colors

The Rangers will have a rough couple of weeks ahead of them. Which means the real New York Rangers are going to stand up.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When Christian Ehrhoff was placed on waivers there were reports the New York Rangers were going to think (key word there) about picking him up, and use the team's defensive play against the Penguins to make that decision. The Rangers shut the Penguins out 3-0 in a game where their "top pairing" got roasted the entire night but was bailed out by Henrik Lundqvist.

In turn the Rangers decided they didn't need the free defenseman (who while slipping in play this year, would still be a better option than some of the daily dressed defenseman) and didn't make a claim. Ehrhoff ended up clearing waiver -- which was a shock to many, I think.

After beating the likes of Carolina, Buffalo, Vancouver, Minnesota, Philadelphia and New Jersey, the Rangers will now have to match up against Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Dallas before the month ends.

That doesn't even include a brutal start to March with the Rangers playing the Penguins and Capitals on the road back-to-back before finishing off the week with a home matchup against the Islanders. Yeah, it's not going to be easy.

The Rangers have actually played pretty good hockey the past couple of weeks. It's been inspiring because the Rangers have been without top defenseman Ryan McDonagh (who has been suitably replaced by Keith Yandle, finally) and Rick Nash and still found ways to win games. The caveat here is the Rangers haven't exactly played anyone worth being excited about -- expect Pittsburgh where the Rangers could have easily lost had it not been for Lundqvist.

Alain Vigneault has allowed himself to get uncomfortable, and has played Yandle like the top-pairing defenseman he is. It's come at the expense of guys like Dan Girardi and Marc Staal (who have seen their total time on ice drop). The problem is Vigneault obviously believes those two are his top guys -- as seen by Vigneault happily matching then up against Sidney Crosby until that went horribly wrong and he had to start dancing around not having the last change. The result? A "top pairing" that got slaughtered in possession while Yandle and Kevin Klein looked really good.

Tonight's matchup with the Kings will be a good test to show the brass what this team is made of. They lost to the Islanders last night (so hopefully there's a fatigue factor here) but they're not far removed from hanging nine (yes, nine) on the Boston Bruins. Chicago is one of the best teams in the game. The Red Winds, Blues and Stars aren't going to be much fun, either. And division matchups against the Flyers, Devils and Blue Jackets are also peppered through the schedule before the month ends .

This isn't going to be an easy stretch of hockey for the Rangers -- even if everyone was healthy. There is no word on a McDonagh return. Ditto for Nash (although his injury is much less of a long-term variable). Tanner Glass has already semi-threatened the Flyers in their matchup on Sunday as retrobution that the Rangers "won't stand for" the Wayne Simmonds cheap shot -- even though Glass was playing during the game when it actually happened. It's going to be a crazy couple of weeks.

And in that time we should see who these real New York Rangers.