EDMONTON — While the city is buzzing about the celebrations for former Oilers coach and general manager Glen Sather, the Rangers have to focus on winning a road game Friday.
Once with a sizable cushion in points, the Blueshirts have hit some speed bumps, going 2-5-1 in their last eight games, scoring only 15 goals.
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Slumps are natural in an 82-game season, but this one appears to be a little unsettling, although Marc Staal said after practice at the University of British Columbia on Thursday before flying here: “I think we’re playing smarter, more together. We’re just not capitalizing on our chances at even strength. On Wednesday, it was the [0-for-4] power play.”
So the second game of this three-game trip, Friday’s match against the Oilers, is important. It will be preceded by the banner-raising ceremony for Sather at Rexall Place, which will be replaced by a downtown arena next season. The Rangers will be respectful to their team president but need to find a way to grab two points from the Oilers, who have won a season-high four games in a row.
Henrik Lundqvist, on the short end of the 2-1 loss in Vancouver on Wednesday, will be back in net, and it appears likely that Antti Raanta will step in on Saturday in Calgary.
Dan Girardi did not skate in practice, watching from the bench in workout clothes with an ice pack on his right knee, which was struck by a shot on Wednesday. But when asked at the college rink if he will play Friday, Girardi said, “Oh yeah,” and coach Alain Vigneault echoed that sentiment.
The Rangers are not carrying a spare defenseman, so to some extent, Girardi has no choice. The salary cap is preventing general manager Jeff Gorton from making a move from Hartford. “We don’t have an [AHL] defenseman making $350,000,” Vigneault said.
Up front, the coach indicated that he has not decided on his lineup. Emerson Etem, who has been a healthy scratch for eight games since Nov. 14 and was sidelined another two with an illness, could play against the Oilers.