The New York Rangers will look to return to their winning ways tonight in sunny Florida, after losing Wednesday to the Washington Capitals. The Rangers had been riding a five-game winning streak prior to their matchup with the struggling Caps, and were sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings. The defending champion Boston Bruins have since taken over first with a game in hand over the Blueshirts. A NY win tonight will put them back in first, a spot they have not occupied this late in the season since the 1995-6 season.
The Panthers are no pushovers, though. Currently third in the East, Florida has been a surprisingly good hockey club, thanks to the offensive production of some unexpected and unknown players. The line of Kris Versteeg, Tomas “Flash” Fleischmann and center Stephen Weiss has been spectacular. The Panthers have also gotten tremendous offensive production from the blueline, with veteran Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov, and Jason Garrison chipping in regularly. Weiss is listed as Day-to-Day with an upper-body injury, so the Rangers may catch the team without their point-per-game pivot.
The Rangers have only been getting consistent production from the GAS Line, Ryan Callahan, and Michael Del Zotto lately. They grind down their opponents with a tireless work ethic and frustrate scorers with their unbeatable netminder, Henrik Lundqvist. They will need to develop some secondary scoring if they are going to remain this high in the standings. Brandon Dubinsky is one player that continues to be looked at for his lack of goal production. Although his lone goal against Washington was only his third of the season, he has been contributing in many other ways. Let’s hope Wednesday’s goal was the first in a streak that returns him to the kind of production similar to his leading goal scoring ways of last season.
Tonight’s contest will be the final game before the Rangers take it outside against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Winter Classic. The Winter Classic has become the NHL’s version of the Super Bowl in the United States, and this year’s matchup has been getting a lot of attention. I will be watching the game with my son in Section 112, a section designated for youth hockey players in the area. How will you be celebrating? Are you going to the game, hosting or attending a house party, or just watching the game with your family? Send me your pictures at email@example.com and I will post the best ones on my Winter Classic Review. Be sure to check back this weekend for my Winter Classic Preview, as well as my thoughts on the Alumni game.
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