TAMPA, Fla. — It’s not exactly a week of reckoning for the 2016-17 Rangers, who remain in very solid position to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the seventh straight season.
The reckoning will come in April, as it arrives annually for the 16 teams that have made the cut. Remember how the hopeful Rangers were ousted in the first round by the Penguins last spring?
With 17 games to play — including this three-games-in-four- nights set on the road against the Lightning on Monday, the Panthers on Tuesday and the Hurricanes on Thursday — the Blueshirts have time to right the ship, which is taking on a little water. They have lost three of their last four games.
Fortunately for the Rangers, they have played very well away from Madison Square Garden. They are 22-8 on the road, but they’re currently searching for the swagger and consistency they displayed early in the season.
The Rangers haven’t met any of those three teams since Dec. 3; they were 3-1-1 against them in that early stretch, when they were riding high at 17-8-1. Now they will face them five times in the next 11 days. Circumstances are different.
The Rangers were pushed and shoved against Columbus, Washington and Boston and banged around against Montreal at home Saturday night. Evidently, management had seen enough. Tanner Glass, 33, who led the Blueshirts in hits last season with 224 and isn’t shy about protecting teammates, was recalled from Hartford on Sunday. Defenseman Steve Kampfer also was recalled as a spare for the trip.
“Money-wise, we have some room,” Alain Vigneault said. “Right now, we have only 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen.” With expanded rosters, “we talked about giving ourselves some more options. Tanner’s been playing hard, playing well there. This just gives us a little more flexibility.”
They also need scoring, with two or fewer goals in eight of the last nine games and an 0-for-19 power play. Consider: The top nine forwards have scored a total of 10 goals in the last 10 games.
That part isn’t on Glass’ resume. The left wing has six goals and 15 points in 57 games with the Wolf Pack this season but also has a team-leading 86 penalty minutes. In 123 games with the Rangers in the previous two seasons, before being sent to the AHL, he racked up 164 penalty minutes. Vigneault is “contemplating” using Glass on Monday night.
Michael Grabner, who leads the team with 26 goals but has missed the last two games, will test his sore hip in Monday’s morning skate.