The Rangers are 10-11-3 at home, and the Red Wings won't be an easy opponent. coach Alain Vigneault, who knows Detroit well from his years in the Western Conference, praised their work ethic, puck possession and net presence.
“They’re very strong on the puck, a very hard team as far as reloading, back-checking, pursuing the puck to get it back, and when they have it, they work like bastards to keep that puck,” Vigneault said. “I mean, it’s unreal how hard those guys work. And one thing, offensively, that I think they do as well – if not better – than any other team in the league, is that net presence. There’s always one guy on each line that seems like – he’s not – but it almost seems like he’s designated to stand in front of the goaltender and make it real hard on him, and that’s why they’ve been one of the best teams in the league for so long.”
Put it together, and there's many reasons why the Wings have been better on the road, 14-6-3, than at home.
But the Rangers are healthy and the Wings are banged up, with a half-dozen players from Grand Rapids in the lineup because of injuries to Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson and Stephen Weiss. Tomas Tatar, who has 10 goals, also will miss the game due to a funeral.
The weak link this season has been Jimmy Howard, who has been subpar, just 8-10-8 with a 2.97 GAA. That's who the Rangers need to exploit. At the other end, Henrik Lundqvist has to be as good, or better, than Cam Talbot was in Detroit on Oct. 26, when he made 32 saves, including overtime, in a 3-2 win, his first in the NHL.
Lundqvist will make his sixth straight start; and the same lineup will be in front of him as in the 2-1 loss to Tampa. D Justin Falk is the lone scratch.
One Ranger who needs a revival, starting ASAP, is center Derek Stepan, who hasn't scored in 12 games and has just four assists.
“Last game I don’t think Step’s line (with Rick Nash and Chris Kreider) was as good as it’s been prior, but there’s some good chemistry there,” said Vigneault, who agreed that he wants to see more from Stepan. “He’s very demanding of himself. He wants to improve. He has great qualities as a player, and he’s still a young player in my estimation, so he’ll only get better.”
More from MSG in a while...