Game Thread: Rangers at Wild

Can the Blueshirts avoid an oh-for-four result on their late-season Western Conference trip?

The Rangers, who’ve played particularly poor hockey amidst a three-game losing streak, will conclude their Western Conference swing tonight in the State of Hockey when the puck drops at 8 PM against the Minnesota Wild.

New York, who are 1-4-5 in their last 10 in which they’ve been out-scored by a 34-22 margin, have been tumbling down the NHL’s standings. The club is now six points away the Metropolitan division basement, and just two points ahead of a fifth-worst overall record on the year.

Given that each step backwards corresponds with a marginal increase in their odds of either winning the NHL’s lottery drawing — scheduled for April 9 — or being awarded a top-three pick this June, these results aren’t without some benefit. Just don’t tell anyone still on the roster that, because they sure don’t want to hear it.

“As a group, we gotta fall in love with winning and fall in love with the details that allow you to win hockey games, because losing sucks,” Chris Kreider said following the Rangers’ 5-1 loss to the Calgary Flames last night.

Tonight’s contest against the a mediocre Minnesota squad could be just what the doctor ordered to lift the team out of this funk, however. The Wild are three points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, but also have dropped their last three games, and are just 1-6-3 in their last 10 games.

Devan Dubnyk will start for the not-so-Wild opposite Henrik Lundqvist, who is eyeing his 450th NHL victory.

Despite Minnesota’s lack of team success, there are a handful of high-scoring forwards the Rangers will need to neutralize tonight if they expect to end their own losing streak. In their last 10 games, Jason Tucker and Eric Staal, who make up two-third of the Wild’s top line, have combined for nine goals and 17 points.

The Rangers’ own top line, by comparison, has gone ice cold of late, with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider combining for just two goals and nine points over their last 10 games.

Please use this as your open thread for tonight’s game.