The New York Rangers are coming off a game that should serve as a teaching lesson, and there's no better team in the NHL to start up another winning streak than the league-worst Columbus Blue Jackets. The two clash Sunday night at 8 p.m. at Madison Square Garden (MSG).
New York was blitzed for four goals in the first period -- less than ten minutes in -- against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. There were more odd-man rushes and defensive breakdowns during that span than the Rangers seemingly have had all season. It leads you to believe it was just an anomaly, especially because they're still the Eastern Conference's best team with a 37-14-5 record and have prided themselves on defensive play. They also locked it down after the first period and resembled the team they've been all year.
Columbus has only 40 points this season, 10 worse than the second worst team in the NHL. It is also coming off a loss to Chicago, a 6-1 drubbing. It has a very low-scoring offense -- with its best offensive players, Rick Nash and Jeff Carter being dangled in trade talks. The Rangers are said to be interested in the Nash, a power forward, but are reluctant to part with the young talent to get him, and rightfully so. Nash leads the team with 39 points and ex-Ranger Vinny Prospal is second with 35.
Henrik Lundqvist will get the nod in net for the Rangers. Marian Gaborik, with 27 goals and 49 points, leads the way, but it's the play of the non-stars (such as Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin) that will define the offense. It's also an opportunity for the Rangers to generate scoring on their 27th-ranked power play, as the Blue Jackets have the worst penalty-killing unit.