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SportsColumnistsSteve Zipay

Martin St. Louis trying everything to break out of slump

Martin St. Louis skates with the puck in

Martin St. Louis skates with the puck in the first period of a game against the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, March 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Twenty-four days and 13 games after the NHL trade deadline, defenseman Raphael Diaz, acquired for a fifth-round draft pick, has more goals (one) than veteran scorer Martin St. Louis, who was acquired by the Rangers in exchange for captain Ryan Callahan and a first- and second-round draft picks.

The odds of that happening were about as long as the Blueshirts sending Ryan McDonagh to Florida for Scott Gomez. Or Sean Avery and Marty Brodeur huddling in an ice-fishing hut together.

The exasperation is starting to show. St. Louis is trying everything. In Calgary on Friday, even when St. Louis posted himself in the crease and he angled his skate to redirect Rick Nash's pass past goaltender Karri Ramo, there was doubt.

A video review reversed the call, wiped out the goal, and the mystifying drought continued: Just three assists overall and pointless in the last five games. At times, he looks like he's close. Other times, he looks his age: 38.

"There's nothing I can say to him personally," Brian Boyle said. "He's been great his entire career. He'll come out of it. We all believe that."

Yesterday, Vigneault decided to switch St. Louis back to the right side, and reunite him with center Brad Richards and left wing Carl Hagelin. "He's more comfortable on the right side," Vigneault said. Richards agreed with the move: "He's played like a thousand games there."

This month, the Rangers have not yet had to rely on St. Louis because Henrik Lundqvist has been vintage, other players are contributing, the defense has structure, and the wins have been coming.

"You look at the record we have the last little while, I'm pretty pleased with that," St. Louis said. "The team's playing really well, at the end of the day, that's what you're after, success. You want to contribute the most you can but for some reason I've had a tough time doing that . . . If I was producing and we were losing, it wouldn't be a good place."

To escape a slump, St. Louis said, "the biggest thing is you've got to be honest with yourself, sometimes you're a little too hard on yourself, sometimes, maybe you're not hard enough on yourself. You've got to find that line that keeps you in a good place mentally, and try not to overthink it too much. You know you're one shot away from going the other way."

St. Louis knew the transition after 13 years would be tough. "I felt really good physically, then I got sick and tried to play through it, you've got to build that up again. So I guess you try not to be too hard right now, but I'm not letting myself off the hook. I understand that I have to be better in certain areas . . . Early on I was getting a lot of good looks and they didn't go in, and human nature, you start squeezing your stick a little bit . . . but I have to find a way to get those chances."

Although he has 29 goals, he considers himself a playmaker first. "I don't think anybody sees me as a pure goal scorer. You have to play the game that's in front of you. I know sometimes I'd like to shoot more. But I'm not trying to be somebody I'm not."

Talbot gets nod vs. Oilers

Backup Cam Talbot will make his first start in goal since March 13, a 2-1 loss in Minnesota, Monday night against the Oilers. Talbot is 11-6, with a 1.76 GAA and a .937 save percentage.

Coach Alain Vigneault said he and goaltending coach Benoit Allaire looked at the rest of the schedule and decided that Monday night’s game was a good spot to rest Lundqvist. Henrik Lundqvist is expected to play in Vancouver and Colorado in the final two games of this Western trip. Vigneault also reunited the line of Mats Zuccarello with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot.

The other change is stranger: Fourth-liner Dan Carcillo, who has recovered from the flu but has played just once in the last five games, practiced on a line with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan, replacing Martin St. Louis. “What you saw [yesterday], I’m 75 percent sure is going to happen,” Vigneault said.

The Final 6

The Rangers are 9-2 this season against the teams they face in the final six games.

Vancouver: 1-0 (5-2 home win 11/30)

Colorado: 1-0 (5-1 home win 2/4)

Ottawa: 2-0 (8-4 road win 3/18; 4-1 road win 1/18)

Buffalo: 2-0 (2-0 home win 10/31; 3-1 road win 12/5)

Carolina: 2-1 (5-1 home win 11/2;  4-2 road win 3/7; 3-1 road loss 3/11)

Montreal: 1-1 (2-0 home loss 10/28; 1-0 road win 11/16)

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