Coming off a frustrating 3-1 home-ice loss to the Canadiens on Tuesday, the Rangers (8-6-1, 17 pts) look to get on track tonight in Ottawa when they skate against the Senators (9-6-2, 20 pts) to begin a two-game road trip in Canada which concludes Saturday night in Montreal. This evening's contest will be the first between the Rangers and Senators since the two clubs waged a seven-game war in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last spring---a series that the favored-Rangers had to stave off a Game 6 elimination at Scotiabank Place before securing the seventh and deciding game at Madison Square Garden.
It will be interesting to see if ten months later bad feelings still remain on both sides. The Rangers were not pleased with Chris Neil's hit which concussed Brian Boyle during the series, and the Sens clearly feel that they should have won the hard-fought quarterfinals, especially after holding a 3-2 series lead with a chance to close it out on home ice, and then holding the lead in Game Six.
The Rangers have more pressing things on their mind, however, heading into this contest. Coming off a dispassionate effort Tuesday, the Rangers wil look to reenergize their game against a physical---yet banged up---Senators squad. And the Rangers will be forced to play a second straight game without their top scorer, Rick Nash, who is sidelined due to an unspecified injury. The Blueshirts seriously missed Nash on Tuesday, and they will need more offensive contributions from throughout the lineup tonight if they are to have a btter result than they had against the Canadiens.
Anton Stralman scored the Blueshirts lone goal Tuesday, with the streaking duo of Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan each notching assists. Hagelin now has a career-high five-game point scoring streak, and is 5-3-8 in that span. Stepan has three points (2-1-3) in his last four matches. However the rest of the lineup---especially with Nash out---needs to step up. Frontline veterans Brad Richards (no goals in ten games), Ryan Callahan (one goal in six games), and Marian Gaborik (two goals in last ten games) were singled out by head coach John Tortorella in this area after practice on Wednesday.
In the Senators the Rangers will be facing a tough opponent, one that is off to a strong start in 2013, but a team that also is dealing with a string of major injuries to several of its star players. Already missing two of their top scorers in the injured Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, the Senators lost superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson for the rest of the season when his achilles tendon was cut by the skate blade of Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke last week. The reigning Norris Trophy winner had notched six goals and ten points in his first 14 games this season before the gruesome injury.
Ottawa has compensated quite well, however. Ottawa is tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 20 points, a success built around the stellar play of goaltender Craig Anderson who leads the NHL with a 1.57 goals against average and a scintillating .950 save percentage. And contributions have come from up and down the lineup, the most recent example coming Tuesday night when rookies Andre Benoit and Dave Dziurzynski both scored their first goals in a 3-1 win over the Islanders.
The Sens have won two straight entering play tonight, though they are 3-3-1 in their last seven. They are 5-1-1 in their last seven on home ice.
Last season the Rangers were 1-2-1 during the regular season against the Sens. Last year the Rangers lone win against the Senators came on November 9, 2011 when Marian Gaborik scored twice and Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves in a 3-2 victory at Scotiabank Place.
Do you think there will be any nasty carryover from last spring's playoffs? And will the Rangers get their game back and come away with two points? Share your predictions below.