After playing one must-win game, the Rangers are faced with another tonight down in NASCAR country. Let's hope the Blueshirts manage to avoid making automaker jokes and keep their momentum going against the Canes. The two teams have played the same number of games (77) but Carolina holds a two point edge and sixth place in the East. Given that the Habs are one point back with a game in hand, and Florida is just two points back in ninth place, a loss will be painful and needs to be unacceptable. Let's just hope the Rangers realize that.
Where We Are: Not necessarily the same team that lost to Carolina back on March 9th. That was a 3-0 loss, the only shutout of the month of March. There has been no positive consistency on this team in any part of their game - negatively, the power play had continued to be terrible. Who knows which team will play? The motivated mob that beat the Devils? The choke artists that failed in Atlanta? It is hard to say so we will just have to tune in to see ...
Where They Are: Oh, the Canes are only one of the hottest teams in the NHL as they ride a six game win streak. Granted, two of those wins were over the struggling Maaarrrrrttttyyy but they still are pretty much on point.
Who To Watch For: Anton Babchuk has been huge on the blueline and has three power play goals in his last six games - that is one more than Wade Redden has scored all season long. Babchuk started the season getting 14 or so minutes per game while Redden has seen 20+ for most of the year. Yeah. Rod Brind'Amour was terrible for most of the year as my fantasy losses can attest to but now that I've been knocked out of the playoffs, Brind'Amour has been doing his best to keep the Canes in them. Bastard. And you can't forget Ray Whitney, one of the most underrated players in the NHL over the last decade.
What To Watch For: Cam Ward standing on his head. Ward was the lone 'hot' goalie that the Rangers faced in March and he skated away with a shutout. Can he do it again? Also see how the Rangers handle the officiating - has Sean truly found Zen? Erik Cole, Chad LaRose and Scott Walker (if he can get over his headaches) are all quite capable of playing smart, physical hockey that results in goals.
What We'll (Hopefully) See: Sean being Sean. Hank being the King. Marc beating Eric in the battle of the Staals. The power play actually skating, cycling and scoring. That's not too much to hope for, is it??
Also Check Out: Red and Black Hockey, Canes Country and Lord Stanley's Blog.