New York Rangers vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 7:30 PM at Madison Square Garden
Where To Watch: NBC Sports Network
Where To Listen: 1050 ESPN Radio
Live In-Game Chat: 7:15 PM on BlueshirtsUnited.com
Tonight at The Garden the Rangers (43-18-7, 93 pts) play the second contest of their season-high seven-game homestand when they host the Carolina Hurricanes (26-28-15, 67 pts) in a batle pitting two teams with distinctly different goals over the final four weeks of the regular season. While the Rangers, who snapped a three-game losing skid with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Islanders Sunday night, are seeking to maintain their top seeding in the Eastern Conference while also fine-tuning their collective game in time for the playoffs, the Hurricanes are trying to play the role of spoiler and trying simultaneously to avoid the cellar in the East. The Blueshirts enter play four points up on second place Pittsburgh, with Thursday's crucial battle with the Penguins on the horizon. The Blueshirts also enter play feeling better about the team's overall game, which began to resemble their gritty, fierce style in last Friday's defeat in Chicago and then blossomed Sunday against the Islanders. A rejuvinated power play---three goals against the Isles after a prolonged 1-18 slide---will have another chance at a productive night this evening facing Carolina's 27th ranked penalty killing unit. The playing status of both Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto remains in doubt, however. Callahan sat out Sunday due to a sore foot, and Del Zotto has missed two straight games with a sore hip. Despite a 2-0 loss to the Panthers on Sunday, the Hurricanes are 2-1-1 in their last four games. The Rangers will have to keep a wary eye on 'Canes captain Eric Staal, who has been held without a point while going -4 in the past three games after having reeled off a 12-game point streak in which he scored seven goals and totaled 21 points.
Tonight marks the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Rangers and Hurricanes with the Blueshirts looking to finish a sweep of the season series. Just two weeks ago the Rangers held on for a clutch 3-2 win down in Carolina, and they have outscored the 'Canes 13-6 so far in the series, incuding 6-1 in the third period. In the only other game played between these two teams at Madison Square Garden this season on November 11th, Brandon Dubinsky and Brad Richards each scored a goal and added an assists in a 5-1 Rangers victory.
"It's a very important thing to be able to handle expectations around you when you have had the type of year we have had, so far. We have had a number of guys overachieve, and now you find out if they can keep it there. And that's where you have to battle through some things, as we have been recently. But you can't get caught up in the thinking of it. You just need to go out and play."-John Tortorella
By The Numbers
With his three-point effort Sunday against the Islanders Brad Richards eclipsed the 20-goal plateau and 50-point mark for the season. Over his 11-year career Richards has reached 20 goals nine times and 50 points ten times. With 21 goals this season he is currently seven shy of his career-high of 28 set last season as a member of the Dallas Stars
With 93 points the Rangers have already equaled last season's point total. The Rangers have reached 100 points in a season just six times in franchise history---most recently in 2005-06---and the the 112 points of the Stanley Cup champion team of 1993-94 remains the high-water mark.
Will the Rangers finish their season-series sweep of Carolina tonight? Share your prediction below.