Rangers have been bolstered by their road success
When the Rangers finished first in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12, they were road warriors with a 24-12-5 record.
Surprisingly, they are not very far from that mark in the final quarter of this season.
The Rangers are 19-11 away from Madison Square Garden, and the Blues and Avalanche lead the league with 20 road victories each. The Penguins and Ducks have 19 each.
The Rangers will need to continue that top-shelf performance away from home, as 11 of their 18 remaining games are on the road.
"Sometimes when you go on the road, you just play," Derick Brassard said Saturday as the Rangers (34-26-4) prepared to host the Detroit Red Wings (29-21-13) in a matinee Sunday. "When you're home at MSG, there's more pressure . . . We're in front of our fans and we're supposed to take advantage of that, and everything. When we go on the road, we're just relaxed. Sometimes you play tighter; sometimes at home, you open up a little too much. But down the stretch here, we're going to have to take advantage of our building."
That's clearly where the Rangers (15-15-4 at home) could use some traction. In 2011-12, the last full NHL season, they were 27-12-2 at the Garden.
They have no chance of matching that record but they definitely will need points at home. Of the 11 road games remaining, only the Oilers and Flames currently are below .500 at home.
One increasingly familiar sight at home and on the road has been Rick Nash on the penalty kill.
Since the Olympic break, Nash -- the high-end power forward who has produced 329 goals and 619 points in 765 games, primarily with Columbus -- has been playing significant minutes when the Rangers are down a man. He was on the ice for 2:20 against Carolina, when he assisted on Ryan McDonagh's shorthanded goal, 1:29 against Philadelphia and 2:16 against the Blackhawks.
On Saturday, coach Alain Vigneault provided some humorous conspiratorial background on the decision. "It's a combination of a few things," he said. "I was talking to Babs [Red Wings and Team Canada coach Mike Babcock] before our last game [Jan. 16] and he said, 'In Canada's best interest, why don't you start using him on the PK, because that's where he's going to play in Sochi.'
"I'm not a big fan of using players in both situations [the power play and penalty kill], but I started using Nash a little bit, not just to help Babs. He had a couple good shifts, and he went over there and played well. When he got back, Zukie [Mats Zuccarello] was hurt and now Cally [Ryan Callahan] is gone. He's doing pretty good and we're probably going to continue to use him."