Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pregame: New York Rangers Look to End Slide Against Wild In Homecoming Game 11/20/2010

New York Rangers (10-9-1) at Minnesota Wild (10-6-2)

Key Opposing Offensive Player: Mikko Koivu (4-12-16)




(Disclaimer: Lineup is totally unofficial and based on what I think will happen following last night.  Prust sounded like a go following last night’s game and have to expect Tortorella to put Boogaard in back in Minnesota.  The defense pairs are based on the 3rd period last night but could certainly revert back to old form.  In net I figure they had Biron penciled in for this one, but pulling of Lundqvist early last night might get him back in there.)

The Rangers will take the ice tonight against the Minnesota Wild looking to rebound from arguably their worst performance of the season last night against Colorado when they were beaten in every phase of the game in a 5-1 drubbing.  The game will mark the return to Minnesota for Marian Gaborik and Derek Boogaard along with a homecoming for native Minnesotans Derek Stepan and Michael Sauer.  The Rangers if they are going to be successful tonight must play with more energy and fight than they did last night and get back to the fundamentals that have been so evident in their best games.  This team is at its best when it plays the physical game because of the energy and opportunities the fore-check and cycle create along with when they just play solid positional hockey in the back and block shots.  Last night none of those things happened and it was a laugher.  There is not enough talent throughout this lineup for them to play a run and gun game with any of the more talented teams and succeed unless Lundqvist steals the game.

Tonight they take on the Wild who are a grind it out type team that doesn’t have explosive offense overall but is exceptional with the man advantage, leading the league with 27.8%, so an obvious key for the Rangers will be to stay out the box tonight.  The goal scoring for the Wild is spread throughout the lineup but the key offensive player is Mikko Koivu.  Koivu is everything Rangers fans hope a player like Derek Stepan can one day become in that he has excellent vision, is a great leader and passer while being a threat to chip in some goals.  The Wild though will live and die overall by their defense which currently ranks number 3 in league for fewest goals against per game at 2.22 and 9 in the league for penalty kill at 85%.  The defense is anchored in the net by Nicklas Backstrom who is off to a tremendous start this season at 8-4-2 with a 1.91 GAA and .938 SV% so scoring tonight will be no easy task.

The best teams in the league, and even playoff caliber teams have their seasons defined not by the wins they have but how they respond to losses and end losing streaks.  The Rangers will seek to show they can be one of those playoff caliber teams and rebound from their embarrassing showing last night and end their current two game slide.  I expect a better effort tonight and for both Stepan and Gaborik to play well in their respective returns to Minnesota.

Prediction: Wild 2-1