After four days to reflect upon their season-long five-game losing streak spurred largely in part to their ineffective power play and inability to take an early lead, the New York Rangers (29-23-4) return to action tonight in a pivotal game against the ninth-place Atlanta Thrashers (24-22-10). Atlanta is just four points behind New York in the standings.
The Rangers come into this game with only three regulation wins since the calendar hit 2011 -- and losers of their past five games which have all been by only one goal (with the Candiens using an empty netter in their 2-0 win). The power play is in a 3-for-31 funk and is 3 for 25 during the Rangers' losing streak. Just one goal here or there could have turned late third-period rallies that fell short into at least a point in the standings. Not surprisingly, the Blueshirts practiced the power play all week in practice. Based on practice, Marc Staal and Wojtek Wolski will man the points on the Vinny Prospal-Ryan Callahan-Marian Gaborik unit, while Michael Del Zotto and Derek Stepan will be on the points for the Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov/Erik Christensen-Mats Zuccarello unit.
Besides just the power play problems, the Rangers have only scored a first-period marker once in their past eight games, and have had to play catch-up in seven of their last eight. Credit to them for not packing it in when they fall behind -- 106-37 shot advantage in the third period over the past eight games -- but it would be nice if they grabbed an early lead.
As much of the Rangers have struggled to grab wins, the Atlanta Thrashers are seeing their own playoff hopes disappear with their recent dreadful play. They've lost 11 of their past 13 games (but gained points in four of those losses), and haven't won in four games.
The last time these two teams played, the Rangers needed a Brian Boyle third-period goal to knot the game at 2 and then some Zuccarello shootout heroics to give New York two points.
Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes tonight and Steven Eminger will remain a healthy scratch.