Rangers know their way around the Yankee Stadium ice
The forecast for Wednesday night in the Bronx indicates a zero percent chance for snow, with temperatures in the low teens. But the number the Rangers are shooting for is three, as in 3-0 in outdoor games, with a victory over the Islanders at Yankee Stadium.
The 7-3 vanquishing of the Devils on Sunday, paired with the 3-2 defeat of the Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park, provides the Rangers with some experience in the elements, although they are wary of the Islanders. John Tavares & Co. have beaten the Blueshirts, 5-3, in each of the last two meetings at Madison Square Garden, last Tuesday and Dec. 20.
Having played at the ballpark helps, said center Dominic Moore, who scored in the first period against the Devils, "but they're going to come in with a lot of enthusiasm and energy and we've got to weather the storm again."
With a 7:30 p.m. scheduled start, sun glare won't be an issue as it was on Sunday, but there's no guarantee that the ice will improve. In his postgame remarks, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he was surprised by the condition of the ice, and Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur called it the "worst" he had ever seen.
"The puck was bouncing a lot," said center Derick Brassard, whose passes on Mats Zuccarello's second-period goals earned him two assists. "I think it's harder on the defensemen."
Trailing 3-2 after the first period, the Rangers adjusted not only to the ice, depth perception and flurries, but to the boards, which defenseman Marc Staal called not as lively as indoors. "We adapted to the circumstances," Moore said. Rick Nash, who scored his seventh goal in five games late in the second period, nonetheless said: "It was definitely a difficult game to play."
On Wednesday night, when it will likely be colder than Sunday, the Rangers also should feel more comfortable in choosing their gear; they can add or remove ski half-masks, gloves, socks and T-shirts, depending on the conditions.
To get a feel for the surroundings, the Islanders are expected to practice in the Bronx Tuesday afternoon; the Rangers won't. They know their strategy.
"We kind of expect we'll keep it very simple at the start of the first period because we know a little more how the conditions are going to be," Brad Richards said. "And it's a lot better going in with two points already."