The New York Rangers continue their quest for their first win of the season on the first stop of their Western Canada road trip against the Presidents' Trophy winner from last year, the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday (10 p.m. EST, MSG+).
Really, if there's a game the Rangers can ill-afford to take dumb penalties in, or avoid playing their patented high-energy, forechecking style, it's not this one. The Canucks, 2-2-1 on the season, are a formidable bunch up front -- and well-rounded on defense -- with two of the best forwards in the league in Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin leading the charge. Mikael Samuelsson is a nice complimentary player, though New York catches a small break without winger Mason Raymond in the Canucks' lineup.
What they won't miss is Selke Award winner Ryan Kesler, one of the best two-way players in the NHL. Kesler hasn't played at any point this season after recovering from surgery to repair a torn hip labrum, but he'll return to the lineup Tuesday. The center is coming off a season in which he scored a career-high 41 goals, and has averaged 74 points the past two seasons. He was vital to Vancouver's stellar season, 117 points, that saw them lose in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. They are again favorites in the West.
With all the firepower up front, New York's fractured defense will have its work cut out. Michael Sauer looks to be sitting again with a sprained shoulder, meaning Jeff Woywitka -- or possibily newly-recalled Brendan Bell, which doesn't seem to be the case -- will likely play again, paired with Steve Eminger. It should also be a good look at the young tandem of Michael Del Zotto and Tim Erixon, but Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh figure to get major minutes. The Blueshirts don't need the defense to be stars, but they do need them to be steady and simple.
New York will also look to receive contributions from secondary scorers. While the first line has accounted for three goals, there are only two other goal scorers throughout the rest of lineup. Defense is important, but you're not going to win without help from the rest of the lineup.
The Rangers beat the Canucks 1-0 last season on a goal from Wojtek Wolski, but it appears he is still going to be limited by his balky groin and most likely won't play.