New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators, 7:00 PM at Madison Square Garden
Where To Watch: MSG Network
Where To Listen: 970-AM The Apple
Live In-Game Chat: 6:45 PM on Blueshirts United.com
Thursday night at Madison Square Garden the Rangers (27-9-4, 58 pts) face the rare challenge of playing a team that has been pretty much just as hot as they have been over the past several weeks as the surging Ottawa Senators (23-15-6, 52 pts) pay a visit to New York. The Rangers, who continue to sit atop the NHL standings with 58 points, have won five games in a row and ten of their last 11, while the Senators have resurrected their season by earning at least one point in seven straight games (6-0-1) entering play tonight and by posting a 9-1-2 mark over their last 12 games. Ottawa has moved all the way up to fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, and their 52 points are just six fewer than the top-seeded Blueshirts, though they have also played four more games than the Rangers. Two of the Rangers last three games have gone to overtime, with the Blueshirts beating the Panthers 3-2 on Marian Gaborik's OT goal last Thursday, and edging the Coyotes 2-1 in the shootout on Tuesday. Those two wins evened the Rangers overtime record at 4-4 this season. Ottawa is coming off a weekend home-and-home split with the Flyers. After losing 3-2 in overtime on Saturday, the Sens rode a four-goal third period to rally past Philly 6-4 on Sunday. Tonight's game pits two of the top snipers in the game as Marian Gaborik, who is 3rd in the league with 23 goals, skates against Milan Michalek, who is tied for 4th with 22.
Tonight marks the third of four meetings this season between the Rangers and Senators with each team having won once on the other's home ice so far. Back on October 29th at The Garden, the Rangers let a 4-1 lead slip away as Ottawa reeled off three goals in the third period to force overtime before Milan Michalek gave the Sens a 5-4 win in the shootout. However two weeks later Marian Gaborik scored twice to lead the Blueshirts to a 3-2 road victory up in Ottawa on November 9th. Gaborik has scored three goals in the two games played between these teams this season, while Brad Richards, Jason Spezza, and Michalek have all scored a pair.
"We are confident playing in all types of games, especially in those close games where you can't make a mistake. And I think it's great how we handle ourselves in those situations, and it's important for when we get to the playoffs that we have succeeded in these close games where every mistake is huge."-Henrik Lundqvist
By The Numbers
Very quietly on Tuesday night, Marc Staal logged 18:16 worth of ice-time, the most in the four games since he returned from a concussion at the Winter Classic. Paired mainly with Stu Bickel, Staal also received shifts alongside Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman as his stamina and confidence grows by the game. Previously Staal had played 12:41, 12:51, and 15:00 this season. Last year Staal led the team, and ranked fourth in the NHL, with an average ice-time of 25:44.
Ottawa's Milan Michalek has already posted the sixth 20+ goal season of his career this season, and the eight-year pro is only five goals away from surpassing his career-high of 26 set back in 2006-07 when he played for the San Jose Sharks.
So what's your prediction for Thursday's match-up of red-hot teams at The Garden? Share below.