LOS ANGELES — By their nature, turnarounds can be quick, or steady and sluggish. A speedboat can swing about and get back on course much faster than a massive cruise ship.
With a middling 4-6 record in January, the Rangers are closer to the latter than the former, and perhaps a touch of concern is setting in.
Long after the 4-2 loss to the Kings on Sunday night, J.T. Miller and Mika Zibanejad sat on opposite ends of the almost-empty visitors’ locker room at Staples Center, staring vacantly into the distance, probably replaying the game in their minds. That, or they were looking forward to a day away from the rink.
“Just finding the wrong end of the stick right now,” Miller said.
To some extent, the Rangers are adrift at the 48-game mark of the season, searching for something that will shift the wind to their backs.
They’ll have two more games on this western swing, two more chances to grab some points before the All-Star break, in Anaheim on Tuesday night and San Jose on Thursday night. With the Rangers at 24-19-5 (53 points) and 7-11-2 on the road, it’s perhaps too soon to use the term “must-win,” but it certainly is time to try to gain some traction.
In the last six seasons, those 53 points are their second-worst total through 48 games. They compiled 63 points in 2016-17, 57 in 2015-16, 62 in 2014-15 and 56 in the lockout-disrupted 48-game season of 2012-13.
In the 2013-14 season, the Blueshirts were only 24-21-3 (51 points) after 48 games, and optimists will recall that the team marched to the Stanley Cup Final that June.
Forget the Final for a moment. The first step toward reaching the postseason this spring in the compressed Metropolitan Division is to string some wins together with whatever lineup coach Alain Vigneault assembles.
In the short term, that will not include Chris Kreider (rib resection) or Kevin Shattenkirk, who underwent surgery Monday afternoon to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. On his Instagram account, Shattenkirk posted:
“Thank you to everyone for all of the warm wishes, especially the Rangers fans. I’m determined to get back out with my teammates as soon as possible! Let’s go @NYRangers #roadtorecovery”
Shattenkirk will miss his third game Tuesday night and is expected to be out for several weeks. Kevin Hayes (leg bruise) likely will miss his sixth game. Kreider will be sidelined for his 12th game.
Like the Rangers, the Ducks have 53 points and are on the wild-card bubble. The Rangers won their only previous meeting, 4-1 at home on Dec. 19.