This game can not come soon enough for the Rangers. After Tuesday's dismal and demoralizing 9-2 loss in San Jose and a day off on Wednesday, the Rangers (1-2-0, 2 pts) look to wash the bad taste of that defeat out of their mouths when they skate against the Anaheim Ducks (2-1-0, 4 pts) at the Honda Center. Of course a favorable result, no matter how much better the Rangers play on Thursday, is not a given what with the tough opposition at hand and the fact that yet again the Rangers will be playing in another team's home opener in front of a hostile crowd.
Yet strapping on the equipment and getting back out on the ice after a performance team captain Ryan Callahan termed "embarrassing" Tuesday night is exactly what the Rangers need. They were beaten badly in every phase of the game in San Jose, most notably their lackluster play in their defensive zone and their inability to cope when the Sharks surged---scoring three goals in an 83-second span during the second period.
Callahan said the players needed to reflect on all that happened in San Jose, while Henrik Lundqvist said the reflection needed to be quick and then everyone needed to move on and turn the page. That is what the Rangers will try and do Thursday night, though they may have to do it without star forward Rick Nash, who played only one period Tuesday after being elbowed in the head by San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart. That Stuart was suspended three games by the NHL on Wednesday is of little consolation to the Rangers if Nash---who already has three points in the first three games of the season---is unable to play. The Rangers did not provide an update on Nash's condition on the day off, and more will be known Thursday morning.
The Rangers are currently carrying only one extra forward on the roster---rookie Jesper Fast---so if Nash can't play Fast would have to. Likely in that scenario Callahan would move from the third line into the Top Six, while Fast would skate with Brian Boyle---two assists in the last two games---and Taylor Pyatt---who has been very effective in each of the first three contests. No forward was recalled from the minor leagues on Wednesday by the Rangers, perhaps a good sign regarding Nash's health.
With or without Nash, the Rangers will need better play in all three zones of the ice, and will need to generate more consistent offense. The Rangers have scored only six goals in the first three games, with Brad Richards netting half of those goals. Derek Dorsett scored his first as a Ranger in the third period Tuesday, providing some depth scoring, but certainly Alain Vigneault would like to see his second line of Benoit Pouliot-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello get on the board. To date all three forwards are scoreless this season.
The Ducks come into their home opener having won two straight after a 6-1 season-opening loss in Colorado. Perhaps in a lesson the Rangers can learn from, the Ducks regrouped and learned from their host of mistakes in the opener, bouncing back with a 4-3 win in Minnesota and a 3-2 victory in Winnipeg on Saturday.Newcomers Jakob Silfverberg and Mathieu Perreault both lead the team early on with two goals and three points apiece. That depth scoring is a good sign for a Ducks team that features top-line star power in Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Saku Koivu, and Teemu Selanne.
Last season the Ducks won the Pacific Division, and finished second overall in the Western Conference and third overall in the NHL, with 66 points in 48 games. It was the second time in franchise history Anaheim won its division, but a first-round playoff ouster at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings has left the Ducks extremely motivated in 2013-14. With a deep roster---featuring a pair of quality goalies in Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth---a high-octane offense, plenty of grit, a taste of recent success, and motivation to spare, the Ducks will be more than a formidable foe for the Blueshirts Thursday night.
Veteran defensemen Luca Sbisa and Sheldon Souray are both injured and will not play for the Ducks against the Rangers. However 21 year-old forward Emerson Etem---a Long Beach, CA native---is expected to make his season debut after missing the first three games due to a lower leg injury.