Coming off one of their best all-around games of the season in Saturday's 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, the Rangers (14-13-0, 28 pts) will try and accomplish something Monday when they host the Winnipeg Jets (12-12-4, 28 pts) which they have yet to do so far in the 2013-14 season. Should the Rangers beat the Jets on Monday it would mark the first time this season that the Blueshirts have climbed a modest two games above the .500 mark on the season.
Five previous times this season the Rangers have moved one game over .500 only to lose their next game and fall right back to .500. Saturday's win pushed them past that mark for the sixth time, and this time the Rangers are hoping they can string together a series of victories and not have to think about being a .500 club again.
After a brutally tough 2-6-0 start to the season the Rangers finally evened their record with a 4-2 victory over the Blue Jackets on November 7th. Three days later they were a game over .500 for the first time all season when hey beat the Panthers 4-3, but a loss to the Devils two days after that began their frustrating stretch of not being able to put .500 in the rearview mirror. With ten of their next 11 games being played on home ice the Rangers are hoping that the month of December will see New York climb in the standings, find consistency in their game, and put an end to worrying about the .500 mark.
With Rick Nash heating up---goals in three straight games, and coming off a three-point effort against the Canucks, Chris Kreider having just posted his first career Hat Trick, and the offense having produced 12 goals in the last three games, things would seem to be looking up for the Rangers as the calendar flips over to December. Add to the mix that the Rangers have allowed two goals or fewer in 16 of their last 20 contests, and goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot are both playing exceedingly well, and it would appear that the Rangers have the earmarks of being able to make a run this month.
In the Jets the Rangers face an opponent in the midst of a six-game road trip. Winnipeg beat the Devils 3-1 and the Islanders 3-2 before losing down in Philadelphia 2-1 Friday night. After skating against the Rangers Winnipeg will head south to play the Panthers and the Lightning before returning home.
Overall the Jets have won just twice since mid-November, a 2-3-2 stretch which was preceded by a season-high four-game winning streak. Like the Rangers, the Jets have battled staying ov er .500 all season, and have not been two games over that mark since winning their first two contests of the season. Currently the Jets sit at NHL .500 with a record of 12-12-4, and they currenlty sit in sixth place in the Central Division.
While Ondrej Pavelec receives the bulk of work in goal for the Jets, and likely will be the starter Monday at The Garden, Al Montoya---the Rangers first round pick in the 2004 draft---backstopped their ost recent victory over the Islanders last Wednesday. Pavelec in 22 appearances is 9-10-3 with 2.69 goals against average, while Montoya is 3-2-1 with a 2.49 GAA in seven appearances. Both goalies have earned one shutout this season.
Alain Vigneault announced after Monday's morning skate that Talbot will make his second consecutive start in goal for the Rangers, while Lundqvist will serve again as the back up Monday night. Talbot has won six straight starts, is 6-1-0 on the season, and owns a 1.49 goals against average and .944 save percentage to go along with two shutouts. He has not surendered more than two goals in any of his seven starts in the NHL.
John Moore and Taylor Pyatt will be the Rangers healthy scratches.