Prior to last night's game, the Rangers offense had been sputtering, having not scored more than three goals since their Dec. 27 win against the Islanders. Marian Gaborik scored four times in the 7-0 shutout of the Maple Leafs -- and tonight the Rangers (27-18-3) travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes (22-18-6), looking to carry on those good vibes.
The Rangers and Hurricanes have split both of their games so far this season, but since their last meeting, this is a definitely a "new-look" Rangers team, with Brandon Dubinsky sidelined, Wojtek Wolski joining in on the fun and more youngsters expected to play considerable minutes.
Because of all the injuries -- seven forwards are absent from the Rangers lineup -- the Blueshirts will be fielding an even more inexperienced lineup than they have all season. Chad Kolarik (13 goals, 10 assists in the AHL) and Brodie Dupont (eight goals, 12 assists in the AHL) have both been called up, but it is unclear at this point who will join the lineup in place of Ruslan Fedotenko, who will miss at least the next two-to-four weeks with a separated shoulder. There quite possibly could be an all-AHL fourth line tonight, with one of the aforementioned callups, Kris Newbury and Dale Weise manning that line. One would have to think that Chris Drury wouldn't be stuck there -- and move up to the third line? -- with all new blood on the squad.
It is also unclear whether Henrik Lundqvist will be in net, but with the Rangers having four games to play in six nights and on the heels of back-to-backs, it wouldn't be a shocker to see Marty Biron get the nod tonight.
Carolina comes in to this game on the fringe of the playoffs, the ninth seed, three points (with two games in hand) behind the eighth-place Thrashers. The 'Canes are coming off of two losses to the Boston Bruins, one a lopsided 7-0 loss and the other closer at 3-2. Since the Rangers and Hurricanes last met, the 'Canes have gone 4-3. It's pretty obvious what the Rangers have to do here -- mainly stop Eric Staal and find ways to beat Cam Ward, who has been a bit shaky as of late. Tuomo Ruutu has played well in January (13 points) and Jeff Skinner has seven goals in the month as well, so those are the key guys to keep an eye on.
The last time these two teams met, Mats Zuccarello scored his first career goal, a game-winner in overtime.