The New York Rangers travel to the Windy City on Friday night (8:30 p.m., MSG) to play the Chicago Blackhawks and hope to find their winning formula along the way. Their second straight 4-1 loss, the latest against the Ottawa Senators, was also the first time in about three months they lost two straight in regulation time. Coach John Tortorella put it best in his postgame interview when he said he thought the Rangers were "beating ourselves in a game and finding ways to lose right now."
Thursday's effort was improved over the loss to the Devils, at least for the first two periods: New York outshot the Senators 17-7 entering the third period, but were down 2-1. It then all fell apart in the third. The Rangers were a victim to a quick-strike Senators offense that jumped on the Rangers' turnovers. The Blackhawks, even without captain Jonathan Toews, are another offense that can score goals at will. They've scored the eighth-most goals in the league, with their Achilles heel being some shoddy goaltending and back-end play. In their only meeting this year, Chicago defeated New York, 4-2, with four goals coming in a forgetful first period.
The Rangers shouldn't focus on what is going on elsewhere in the standings. Thursday, nearly every close competitor won and their Atlantic Divison lead shrunk to seven points, the Eastern Conference lead to eight points. If they just go about their business, return to their gritty, hard-working style, the wins should return. One aspect that would really help the club is if the power play found some sort of way to generate momentum -- not even offense. It ranks 29th right now and went 0-for-4 against the Senators. At this point, it's becoming more of a frustration for the team because it can't getting anything positive done on it.
Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes. The team will have to focus on playing on both ends of the ice, as the Hawks have three 50-plus-point scorers and two 25-plus scorers in the lineup, led by Marian Hossa's 64 points. And after scoring just two goals over their last two games, the Rangers would like to break out against Chicago, especially with such a busy month ahead.