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The Road Ahead

The Rangers schedule is about to get tough and the decisions that need to be made are not getting any easier

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Beginning with yesterday’s 7-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers are going to play 10 games in a span of 18 days. Six of the next nine games on the schedule will be played on the road — where the Blueshirts have gone 6-10-2 this season. And four of the next nine games will be played against teams who are currently in a playoff position.

After this brutal stretch of the schedule, the Rangers will have nine days off, including the 2019 All-Star break. Following that, the Rangers play just 14 more games before the trade deadline arrives on Feb. 25th, 3 p.m. ET. Needless to say, there’s a lot that could — and should — happen before then.

Wednesday’s 7-2 rout at the hands of the resurgent Pittsburgh Penguins made a few things abundantly clear. As many of us already know, the Rangers are definitely not a playoff team. They have the least amount of ROW (regulation plus overtime wins) and are tied for the second-most “loser points” in the league (points earned in overtime and shootout losses). It’s also clear that head coach David Quinn needs to do better by his aging All-Star goaltender. And he knows it.

Hopefully, that means we will see Alexandar Georgiev get a few more starts in January. The young Russian netminder started in three of the Rangers’ 12 games in December and four of the Rangers’ 14 games in November. Thus far this season, Lundqvist has 30 starts to Georgiev’s nine.

Tom wrote more about this situation this morning when he argued that the Rangers need to shift their focus to the development and discovery of players.

Going forward Georgiev should be treated more like a starter than as a backup so that the Rangers can learn more about him — or at least a more evenly split tandem. There is no reason why he can’t start three or four games in a row before Lundqvist rotates back in. Lundqvist isn’t going to like it, but that’s the way things should be to preserve him and learn more about the young netminder.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is whether or not Quinn will consider setting a new standard for who he is scratching and why they are being scratched. With everyone healthy again, the Rangers have a logjam of healthy skaters, especially on the blue line. And that means that we are going to see players who shouldn’t be missing games watching hockey in a suit. Tony DeAngelo, the youngest defenseman on the NHL roster, has been a scratch in four of the last six games. But if DeAngelo comes into the lineup, who comes out?

The Rangers should be trying to showcase Kevin Shattenkirk, Brendan Smith, and Adam McQuaid to see if they can drum up any interest in them before the deadline. But should that take priority over playing Neal Pionk, Fredrik Claesson, Brady Skjei, and DeAngelo? There’s no easy fix here beyond letting someone who has real value hitting the waiver wire. And the reason that there’s no easy fix is the decisions that Gorton and Quinn made leading up to the season.

The reality is that this logjam will persist until deadline day, and even then there might not be as much change on the blue line as we might want to see. It’s unrealistic to expect the Rangers to part ways with the contracts of Shattenkirk and Smith before deadline day when the clear priority is dealing with pending UFAs — namely Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes. As frustrating as it may be, Gorton will not be able to check everything off of the “to do” list at this year’s deadline.

Hopefully, that won’t continue to be too great of an obstacle between young players and prospects getting some NHL ice time before the end of the season.