Coming off a 3-1 loss in Buffalo that infruriated head coach John Tortorella to no end, the Rangers (13-10-2, 28 pts) look to gain some quick redemption Thursday night when they skate against the Winnipeg Jets (13-11-2, 28 pts) in an extremely important Eastern Conference match-up at the MTS Centre. Not only will the Rangers be seeking to wash the bitter taste of Tuesday's listless loss out of their mouths, the Rangers will be attempting to hold off a Jets team that has pulled even with them for eighth place in the standings.
After practicing in Winnipeg on Wednesday, Tortorella and his players spoke of moving past the Sabres game. But so bad was it, that it would seem only a victory tonight could put that 3-1 loss permanently in the rearview mirror. Another loss on Thursday would ost assuredly cause doubt within the Rangers dressing room, especially because they would slip out of the final playoff spot in the East.
The contest is important, as well, because the Rangers have a game in hand on the Jets. Plus Winnipeg has already beaten the Blueshirts once this season---a 4-3 decision at The Garden on February 26th. The Jets scored more goals in that one game against the Rangers then they did in losing all four contests with New York a year ago (they totaled three in four losses). Evander Kane and ex-Ranger Olli Jokinen each scored a pair of goals in that game two weeks ago.
Tortorella called out his top players for their disappoitning play Tuesday night, and will expect all to bounce back in a big way tonight. Marian Gaborik was taken off the Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan line in the third period---replaced by rugged winger Micheal Haley---and landed on the third line to close out the game Tuesday. Expect him to be restored to the Stepan line, while Rick Nash---whose ten-game point streak ended Tuesday---remains with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin.
One Ranger who produced another solid outing was center Brian Boyle, who was credited with a game-high eight hits against the Sabres. This came on the heels of his strong game Sunday when he scored his first goal of the season in the 4-1 win over the Caps. And of course both of these well-played contests follow Boyle's being scratched last Friday against the Senators.
The loss Tuesday dropped the Rangers road record to 4-5-1. They won twice at the MTS Centre last season; and the Jets have struggled on home ice so far this year, as well. The Jets are just 5-6-1 at homein the 2013 season, though they have won two of their last three at the MTS Centre.
Most recently the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-2 Tuesday evening on home ice. Former Ranger Nik Antropov recorded three points in the win, which lifted Winnipeg into an eighth place tie with the Blueshirts. Dustin Byfuglien (0-3-3) also had three points Tuesday, while Blake Wheeler scored twice and Kyle Wellwood notched a pair of points (1-1-2). The Jets now have points in four straight games (3-0-1) and are 6-2-1 in their last nine overall.
Will the Rangers put that Buffalo loss decidedly in the past, or will they struggle against a surging Jets team Thursday? Share your predictions below.