The New York Rangers continue their four-game jaunt to Western Canada on Saturday night when they visit an old friend, ex-coach Tom Renney, and the Edmonton Oilers, looking to go a perfect 3-for-3 on the trip (10:00 p.m. EST, MSG+).
Renney is not exactly in the best of situations here, coming off a 62-point season in 2010-11 and currently with a group that is 2-2-2. Improvement will be made this season, but this Oilers club is so young and raw and without a lot of depth, that they will have a tough time getting close to the .500 mark yet again this season. The defense is nothing great, but the firepower potential on offense is impressive.
To shed light on the Oilers' youth: Eighteen-year-old rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the team's first overall pick in the last Draft, leads the team with five points, and four goals, on the year. The playmaking center torched the WHL with 106 points -- 75 assists -- in 69 games last season, and it was thought he would just get a nine-game look at the NHL before being returned to his WHL team as his entry-level contract would kick in. He's just been too good to send back, though. Nugent-Hopkins is playing on a line with 19-year-old left wing Taylor Hall, the 2010 first overall selection, who is coming off a season in which he recorded 42 points in 65 games played. Right wing Jordan Eberle, 21, was a first-round selection in 2008 and had 43 points in 69 games. He also lit up the WHL in his final year (about two years ago), with 106 points -- 50 goals -- in 57 games.
New York played a much better game against the Calgary Flames on Thursday, and slowly but surely is rounding into shape and playing their forechecking, high-energy style. If the defense can continue to hold serve and the Rangers stay out of the penalty box -- 32 penalties to kill off in the first four games -- they will have a good chance at prolonging their win streak to three games.
This should be a good chance for the Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan line, which has been relatively quiet, to break out. Each have shown flashes in previous games, but it all hasn't come together for what was the Rangers most consistent line last season.