Well Ranger fans, the 2008 portion of the season is done. The Blueshirts are 23-13-3 and lead the Atlantic division with 49 points. While the Rangers have not played good hockey as of late, maybe ’09 will provide change for a club looking to hit its stride.
Here’s a look at what’s in store for the new year:
January: 12 games (4 home, 8 away)
This is going to be a big month for Tom Renney’s team, there is plenty of tough competition, most of which will come on the road. The teams we will get used to seeing are the Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and co. will face the Rangers 3 times. The schedule also features contests against teams that are white hot heading into the year, Washington and Chicago.
January also provides the NHL All-Star weekend, festivities will be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal to help celebrate the Habs’ centennial. Hopefully two Rangers will get a call to play in the exhibition, Henrik Lundqvist and Nikolai Zherdev both deserve a chance to show their skills to the world.
Outlook: Tough month, there will be a lot of tests for this team and we will certainly learn a lot about their integrity as a unit. 6-4-2 wouldn’t be bad, but hopefully they will surprise me and everyone else.
February: 13 games (7 home, 6 away)
After what is lining up to be a brutal January, the Rangers have a lot of winnable games in February. They will face teams such as Atlanta, Florida, and Toronto twice and face-off with the Blues and Avalanche.
Special month for some former Ranger greats as 3 numbers will be raised to the rafters. The game against Atlanta on the 3rdwill be Adam Graves night, where Gravey will go right up there with Leetch, Messier and Richter. Then, on the 22nd, the team will honor both Harry Howell and Andy Bathgate before taking on Toronto. Both of these nights will be ones to remember, as we have seen of late, the Rangers do a great job with these ceremonies.
Outlook: Wishful thinking says this could be a 10 win month but, I’ve seen this team play an awful lot this year and I would have to assume they drop a few “gimmes”. Lets hope for 8-3-2.
March: 13 games (6 home, 7 away)
This is where the schedule gets very interesting. The race in the division is likely still going to between four teams (sorry Isles) which means ideally, this is where the Rangers hit their stride. The make or break games will be the home and home against the Flyers on the 14th and 15th.
With the new schedule in play, the Rangers will face their final tests from the Western Conference in March as well. They will head to the Sommet Center to face Nashville on the 12th and host a playoff-hopeful Minnesota club on the 24th.
Outlook: Don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I am going to say 8-3-2 once more.
April: five games (2 home, 3 road)
And down the stretch they come. Five games, four of which appear to be against playoff teams. In addition to another tussle with Eric Staal and the Hurricanes, the Blueshirts will face Boston, Montreal, and another home and home with the Flyers, which will close out the regular season.
This is where the games matter most, even if a playoff spot is locked up you want to end the year on a high note. Those two games with Philly are a good way to close out because the Flyers play a very physical game which should not allow the Rangers to let up.
Outlook: 3-1-1. For once, Renney will get the message across and the team will finish out the season ready for the playoffs.
Doug Fischer is a contributor to Ranger Nation.
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