Game 78: Staying hot in Colorado as the playoffs approach

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

The Rangers are in Denver tonight to take on the Colorado Avalance, who have recently passed the Chicago Blackhawks for second in the Central Division. The Avs are playing for home ice against the Hawks in the first round, while the Rangers are playing to keep the distance between them and the Flyers at three points. The Rangers beat the Avs once, and are fully capable of doing it again, even without Ryan McDonagh. If you’re scoreboard watching, the Flyers and Blue Jackets face each other tonight as well.

On the ice, the Avs run a very aggressive style of play. On the forecheck it is a straight 2-1-2 without sitting on leads. In the defensive zone, the Avs play straight man-on-man, so expect a lot of pressure and rushed/hurried decisions. On special teams, the Avs run a 1-3-1 power play and a hybrid penalty kill with very active defensemen.

Rangers Lineup:

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McDonagh out and day to day, Moore in tonight

Per Andrew Gross, defenseman Ryan McDonagh is out tonight and is day-to-day after being on the receiving end of a questionable hit –that received no supplemental discipline– from Alex Burrows. John Moore, who has been out since March 21, will take McDonagh’s spot in the lineup.

Musings: The Rangers have contract headaches looming

Little man get paid big?

Little man get paid big?

Yes, I know Dave gave you a Musings this morning. Whatever. You’re being spoiled today with two. As the Rangers close in on a playoff spot, form, health and special teams become so incredibly important at this time of the year. With the Avalanche on tap this evening, let’s have a muse for the second time today.

It’s nice to see the Captain (the real captain) holds no apparent bitterness toward the Rangers following his coaching snub last summer. Mark Messier says the Rangers have a chance at the Cup and, if they avoid the Bruins, there’s no reason to think they can’t go far if health and form holds up.

That said, the Rangers cannot go far in the post season without a better powerplay and consistency from Nash, St Louis, Richards – in that order. The defense will keep this team in games, Henrik Lundqvist will steal games but the offense needs to spot the King a lead or two. Stating the obvious?

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Wolf Pack sign defenseman Justin Baker to ATO

One day after adding Chris McCarthy to an ATO for the remainder of the season, the Wolf Pack have signed defenseman Justin Baker to an ATO. Baker, a 6’2″, 190-lb defenseman out of St. Lawrence University of the ECAC, is coming off a year where he was tied for the team lead in points with a line of 9-24-33 in 38 games. Over his four year career, the undrafted free agent has put together a line of 19-63-82 in 143 games.

Random thoughts as the playoffs approach

Photo: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

As the playoffs approach, the Rangers have been one of the hotter teams of late, winning eight of ten games to solidify their spot in the playoffs. With five games remaining, their magic number to clinch a spot is three, while the magic number to clinch a non-wild card spot is down to seven. It seems almost a guarantee that the Rangers will make the playoffs.

The Rangers will go as far as Henrik Lundqvist takes them. They have the best goaltending in the Eastern Conference, and a hot Hank will spell doom for most of the opposition. Hank has shown he can steal a playoff series, mainly against Washington, and will likely need to do so at least once this year. The best part is that –Calgary clunker aside– Hank is playing some of his better hockey of late. When the All-World caliber goalie is starting to get hot, it’s a good sign.

As important as Hank is, injuries will play a significant role again. The Rangers are already having trouble replacing Chris Kreider in the lineup, with Dan Carcillo getting top-six minutes. J.T. Miller isn’t ready for The Show yet, and there aren’t many options in Hartford that appear ready. If Ryan McDonagh is out for an extended period of time, that means Justin Falk is getting 10-12 minutes a game. The injury depth isn’t there.

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J.T. Miller returned to Hartford

The Rangers have returned forward J.T. Miller to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL. Miller was called up after the injury to Chris Kreider, going scoreless in the first two games following his call up. Miller was a healthy scratch the previous two games before his return to Hartford.

Benoit Pouliot’s breakout year is a good example of why teams roll the dice on disappointing youngsters

Benoit Pouliot has blossomed in New York after playing for four teams in his first six seasons

Every year it seems like the Rangers have a reclamation project or two on their roster. There have been former first- and second-round picks that never panned out in their former homes like Enver Lisin, Chris Higgins, Alex Frolov, Wojtek Wolski and Brian Boyle as well as fringe NHLers looking for a final shot like Ales Kotalik, Anton Stralman, John Mitchell, Erik Christensen and Aaron Voros.

Really, every team has a guy or two like that. The majority of them last no more than a year or two with their respective new clubs before shuffling off to a different NHL team if they’re lucky – or, in most cases, to the minors or overseas. But every so often, the light bulb goes on. Boyle and Stralman have both been valuable players for the Blueshirts for the last several years and this season, Benoit Pouliot has played a major role.

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GIF: Burrows high hit on McDonagh

Update: Per Larry Brooks, there is no structural damage on McDonagh’s shoulder.

Original Post: In the final minute of yesterday’s win over Vancouver, Alex Burrows –not known for being the cleanest of players– delivered a questionable high hit on Ryan McDonagh. The hit left McDonagh on the ice in pain, and burrows received a five minute major for elbowing. There is no update on McDonagh’s injury as of yet. The GIF of the hit is below, courtesy of Edge of Sports Insanity:

The hit itself was not from behind, but it was a high hit (two hands to the face) on a player in a defenseless position. It looked like McDonagh went down favoring his left shoulder. I’d try to venture a guess about a possible Burrows suspension, but the Wheel O’ Justice has been random for a while. It’s a coin flip if there’s any supplemental discipline at this point.

What do you think of the hit? Should Burrows be suspended?

Wolf Pack sign Chris McCarthy to ATO

The Hartford Wolf Pack have announced that they have signed forward Chris McCarthy to an amateur tryout, allowing the forward to play in the Pack’s final eight regular season games. McCarthy was recently signed to an entry level deal by the Rangers on Monday, but the deal kicks in for the 2014-2015 season. The original deal would not have allowed McCarthy to play until next season. The ATO allows him these eight games.

St. Louis notches first as a Ranger as Vigneault wins in return to Vancouver

Finally! (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Finally! (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Alain Vigneault got the best of his old club in his return to Vancouver, as the Rangers topped the Canucks 3-1 last night.  The Rangers, who led 2-0 after the first, were pretty lucky to have leads after the first and the second. The Canucks really dominated the puck possession game, but Henrik Lundqvist was unbelievable in net, again, and really gave the Rangers the opportunity to win.

It’s late, so I’m keeping the non-goal breakdown stuff to a minimum. On to the goals:

Rangers 1, Canucks 0

Brian Boyle won the neutral zone face off cleanly back to Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh gained the zone and fired the puck off the boards, where it took a weird carom. Eddie Lack whiffed on it, allowing there to be a scramble in front. Lack was never able to freeze the puck, and Dan Carcillo was able to bang it home. There’s no picture on this goal, as all attempts came out really blurry.

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