After losing four in a row, the New York Rangers find themselves on a two-game winning streak after defeating the Thrashers 5-2 on Friday and the Flyers 3-1 Sunday afternoon. Both wins mean a lot because the team is still on the outside looking in. The Rangers currently sit in the ninth seed, just one point shy of catching the Bruins, a team they will face on Sunday, who are in eighth.
The Rangers played with an abundance of physicality on Sunday, and they will have to keep that up even against teams like the Canadiens, who are not as physical. They will also need solid goaltending from Lundqvist and hope that the defense in front can play the way they have in the previous two games; not allowing lots of chances and alleviating the stress on their goaltender.
These are tonight’s projected line combinations for both teams:
Vaclav Prospal—Olli Jokinen—Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky—Artem Anisimov—Ryan Callahan
Sean Avery—Chris Drury—Erik Christensen
Jody Shelley—Brian Boyle—Brandon Prust
Marc Staal—Michal Rozsival
Michael Del Zotto—Dan Girardi
Matt Gilroy—Wade Redden
Tom Pyatt—Tomas Plekanec—Andrei Kostitsyn
Benoit Pouliot—Scott Gomez—Brian Gionta
Travis Moen—Dominic Moore—Sergei Kostitsyn
Maxim Lapierre—Glen Metropolit—Mathieu Darche
Andrei Markov—Josh Gorges
Jaroslav Spacek—Ryan O’Byrne
Hal Gill—Roman Hamrlik
Henrik Lundqvist will be in net for the Rangers while the Habs are expected to start Jaroslav Halak, as Carey Price has struggled all season long.
Michal Rozsival also played his best game of the season Sunday night, scoring his first powerplay goal of the year. He should get more playing time on the powerplay unit because in the previous four seasons, he has scored a total of 19 goals with the man advantage. Wade Redden also looked sharp and hopefully he can keep it up; his veteran experience will be needed down the stretch.
Let us also hope that the Rangers’ top line of Prospal—Jokinen—Gaborik will remain together the entire night because they played very well Sunday. Although Jokinen did not score, he was surging all game long, driving to the net and shooting the puck whenever he got a chance. Sean Avery also needs to get back to his gritty self, and he showed flashes of that in the last game. If one is looking for something positive in this latest stretch, then maybe the last game will be the much-needed turning point in this Rangers season.
Please visit my sports blog, "From New York to San Francisco" .