DETROIT - Leaking oil and rattling like a car that has seen better days, the Rangers rolled into the Motor City from Philadelphia on Friday with a 2-6 record and hoping the road ahead in New York is smoother.
Henrik Lundqvist, who sat out Thursday night's 2-1 loss to the Flyers, is termed doubtful for Saturday night's game against the Red Wings as he recovers from an undisclosed injury. The goaltender did practice for the second consecutive day in Philadelphia, this time with a small group of teammates at the University of Pennsylvania.
Lundqvist then arrived with the club here along with two other goalies, rookie Cam Talbot, who made 25 saves against the Flyers in his NHL debut, and Jason Missiiaen, who served as backup. It appears that duo again will dress for the game against the Wings, and Lundqvist will target Monday night's home opener against Montreal.
But first there is a night at The Joe, where the Rangers haven't won in regulation since 1999, about 10 years before General Motors filed for bankruptcy. No one is ready to liquidate the Rangers just eight games into coach Alain Vigneault's tenure, but one wonders about the reception from the diehards at Madison Square Garden for the opener if the team is 2-7.
Saturday night's game will be the ninth consecutive road game for the Rangers, who have scored only 12 goals. The Red Wings, ranked fourth in the East, have 25. For the Rangers, home can't come soon enough. Monday will be the latest season opener in Manhattan in a non-lockout year since 1947-48.
Lundqvist isn't the only Ranger in the shop. Rick Nash hasn't practiced since a head shot from San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart knocked him out of the Oct. 8 game. Captain Ryan Callahan is recovering from a broken thumb and is only nine days into what was estimated as a three-to-four-week absence. But speedy left wing Carl Hagelin, who had the same offseason shoulder surgery as Callahan, has been practicing hard and is expected to come off injured reserve and play against the Islanders in Uniondale on Tuesday.
The Rangers have at least one advantage: the schedule. Before Friday night, 10 teams already had played 10 games and eight teams had played 11. And the Rangers have all 41 home games remaining, plus two "away" games at Yankee Stadium during Super Bowl week. That may be enough time to repair the dents from all the early travel.