Friday night at Madison Square Garden the Rangers (22-20-3, 47 pts) will be looking to follow up and build upon one of their most inspired victories of the season--a 3-2 road win in Chicago against the defending Stanley Cup champions on Wednesday--when they host the Dallas Stars (20-16-7, 47 pts). Not only will the Blueshirts try and carry over some of that momentum from Wednesday, but they will look get off on the right foot on this four-game homestand because they have struggled mightily on home ice this season.
In fact if you look at the Rangers biggest wins of the 2013-14 season to date, nearly all have come on the road. Victories in Los Angeles, Detroit, Montreal, Dallas, Toronto, and now Chicago all stand out for various important reasons, while the signature home-ice wins are the ones against the Penguins and Canucks. More victories of any kind on Garden ice would be welcome, since the Blueshirts are just 8-10-3 at home so far this season, though they have earned points in each of their last three games at MSG (2-0-1).
Wednesday's win over the Blackhawks was one chock full of character and will for the Rangers who refused to break even when they were forced to bend much more than they wanted to against one of the NHL's true elite teams. Henrik Lundqvist starred with 35 saves, including 15 as the Rangers raced to a 2-0 first-period lead and another 11 in a wild third period. Brad Richards, Mats Zuccarello, and Carl Hagelin---who netted the game winner with under six minutes to play in the third period---all scored their 11th goal of the season on Wednesday, while Richards finished with two points. Marc Staal also contributed a pair of points with two assists, while Michael Del Zotto quietly played another effective game, picking up a point in his third straight contest.
Daniel Carcillo made his Rangers debut and played under eight minutes, though after the game he was praised by head coach Alain Vigneault for being a physical presence out on the ice---something Carcillo's linemate, Brian Boyle, was, as well. Vigneault will have to decide if Carcillo will remain in the lineup against the Stars on Friday or if J.T. Miller will be reinserted. No other lineup changes are expected.
New York scored another power play goal on Wednesday, and now has four power play goals in its last three games, covering 11 opportunities. The revived power play has scored in eight of the last 11 games, with 12 power play goals being tallied over that stretch.
Dallas is coming off Thursday's 1-0 loss in Newark to the Devils, their season-high fourth consecutive defeat. On Friday they will be trying to avoid a three-game sweep through the metro New York area after a 7-3 loss on Long Island on Monday and Thursday's loss in New Jersey. In that loss Monday Dallas surrendered a season-worst seven goals, but goaltender Kari Lehtonen bounced back Thursday to stop 33 of the 34 shots he faced. Lehtonen, who was selected by Finland to play for its Men's Olympic Hockey team in Sochi, has already appeared in 35 games this season, fourth most of any goalie in the National Hockey League.
During their losing skid Dallas has allowed 19 goals in the four defeats while scoring only eight of their own. Prior to this losing streak the Stars had earned at least one point in seven straight games (5-0-2) dating back to December 17th. Currently they sit in fifth place in the Central Division. Eleven of Dallas' 20 victories on the season have come on the road, though the Stars are just 2-4-2 in their last eight games out of Dallas.
The player the Rangers will have to keep an eye on Friday is former Bruin Tyler Seguin, who enters play leading Dallas with 21 goals---ninth most in the league--and 41 points--17th most in the NHL. He has been held off the scoresheet in three straight games after ripping off three goals and six points in the previous five contests, so is itching to get back on track.