As the 2008-09 NHL season progresses, the New York Rangers’ schedule will provide more challenges for a team with many new faces. Off to a great start, here’s a look at 10 key games (or pairs of games) left on the docket in chronological order:
1) December 7th: The Flames will certainly be a tough opponent in the northwest this season, and they have so much talent. Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf are huge scoring threats, and must be contained if you want to win. They pose a strong task for an improving Rangers defense.
2) December 20th: This is a tough cross-country game in the “Shark Tank.” San Jose is one of the top teams in the Western Conference and will certainly be a formidable challenge for the Rangers. The key will be stopping Joe Thornton, which is always a tough task. Almost as tough will be the raucous home crowd. Good test for NY.
3) February 3rd and February 22nd: These games against the Thrashers and Maple Leafs should be fairly easy Ranger wins. The importance here is Adam Graves Night along with the retiring of Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell’s jerseys. All three are deserving of their numbers being raised to the Garden rafters. It should provide more great memories at The Garden!
4) February 6th: A Texas-sized match-up against former Ranger Sean Avery and the Stars. Dallas will be right in hunt for one of the top spots in the West, competing with Anaheim and San Jose for the Pacific title. The Rangers lost to Dallas at home already and must be the more disciplined team if they want to win.
5) March 9th: The Rangers have a sizable edge over the Islanders this season, and it showed in a 4-2 win on the Island in their first meeting. However, the Isles have had success recently against their counterparts, and the Rangers cannot fall into a lull in this late season match-up at Nassau Coliseum. If they do, a top playoff spot for them could be lost.
6) March 21st: In this home contest with the Sabres, a high seed in the playoffs will once again be on the line. Buffalo has been very good this season, and I expect them to keep playing. New York dominated Buffalo last season but lost their first meeting this season. Whoever gets the early edge will have the advantage.
7) March 28th: A recurring theme here is late season games against tough opponents. This road contest against the Penguins is no different. Pittsburgh is a very strong team and poses a tough threat, especially in the Igloo. The Rangers need to do one thing: Stop Crosby and Malkin! It’s not easy, but if done, should result in a win.
8) March 30th: The Devils always find a way to battle for a playoff spot and will likely do the same again. This game will be very important on determining playoff spots in a tight Atlantic Division. The Rangers dominated the Devils last season and match up well against them. Look for more of the same in this game.
9) April 7th: Fortunately for the Rangers, this game is being played at MSG. The Canadiens have started 08-09 off strong as expected, and will be right in the thick of things for the Eastern Conference regular season title all year long. Montreal is physical, talented, and has a lethal power play. The Rangers dominating penalty kill should match-up nicely.
10) April 9th and April 12th: This home-and-home series against the Atlantic-rival Flyers could be huge. With the Flyers being a much improved team this year, these will be two games that could very well decide a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Chemistry will take time to form for Philly, but physical games are always a safe bet. The Rangers must match their intensity.
Enjoy the season everyone!
For a complete Rangers Schedule, visit the Rangers Website.