Steve Zipay takes you inside the locker room, home and on the road, with the New York Rangers, and also writes about the NHL, off and on the ice.
Things to know before Rangers-Canes: '2 points, that’s all'
1. Bottom line here in Raleigh: In with a win.
“We’ve just got to get two points, that’s all," said Ryan McDonagh. "You’d rather have that than be on the outside, looking, hoping and wishing. We can just focus on ourselves and our game.”
2. What do Blueshirts, who will dress the same lineup, with Henrik Lundqvist in goal, need to do better than in the Florida loss? “Forecheck better, establish a net presence,” said Rick Nash. “The cards are in our hands.”
3. More McDonagh: “Get to the dirty areas, and spread the zone out at the point, create traffic. Nowadays teams are collapsing so low, if you don’t get a shot on net, at least draw the forwards out. Just try to be a little more creative in the offensive zone. We have to be prepared right from the get-go. We weren’t hard enough at times (against Florida), and physical enough, to gain momentum.”
4. The Canes, who have won two straight, but have been eliminated, are without Alexander Semin, gone for the season with a concussion, said coach Kirk Muller.
5. Muller: “We’re not in the playoffs, but the next best thing for us is to play in these game against teams who are fighting for something. For me, it’s not about trying to be a spoiler…I believe the Rangers are ready to play a playoff-type game, so let’s be ready to play and that will be a good experience for us. For me, it’s more the mentality of “How can this better our team and our young guys who haven’t played in a playoff game yet?” Let’s see how you match up, let’s see how you play against a guy who’s looking at you and saying, “Hey, I’m giving it all tonight, we gotta win this hockey game.” It’s not game 22 of the season, these teams are playing for their lives. We played Ottawa, Winnipeg, good games. Not against Philly. We were bad.”
5. Muller is experimenting with lines, and will use Jeff Skinner at center. G Dan Ellis is expected to start for Carolina.
6. The numbers: Rangers (24-18-4) also could back in if the Jets lose their last game to Montreal at home tonight.
Only three points separate the four teams from sixth to ninth: the Islanders, who are in the playoffs, have 54 and two games left; the Senators and Rangers are tied with 52, but Ottawa has a game in hand. The Jets, at 51, have one game left. The final seeding may not be decided until Sunday, when the Senators visit the Bruins for the game that was rescheduled due to the Boston bombings.
7. The Rangers beat the Canes twice this season---one in a 2-1 shootout in New York on March 18, with the deciding goal by Nash, who also scored a power-play goal in a 4-1 win here on April 6. Derek Stepan had two regulation goals in those games, including one on the power play. The Devils, meanwhile, eliminated by the Rangers last Sunday, wait in the wings for a possible revenge game on Saturday.