This was supposed to be the part of the season where the Rangers made up lost ground.
So far, though, it hasn’t happened.
The Rangers — in the midst of a franchise record nine-game homestand (the Blueshirts play 20 of 30 at MSG leading up to the Olympic break) — have started with a thud, dropping a 4-3 OT decision to New Jersey on Saturday followed by a dismal 4-1 defeat to Washington on Sunday.
Following the Caps loss, New York held a players-only meeting to try and make sense of its 5-7-1 record at MSG this season. Captain Ryan Callahan said things had to change — starting ASAP.
“We have to respond,” Callahan said, as per the Bergen Record. “It’s not good enough at home. This is a long home stand and now it takes the guys in here to respond and be better. It starts Tuesday night and that’s how we are looking at this.
“We have a challenge in front of us and now we have to answer it.”
The Rangers will host Nashville on Tuesday and know how crucial a victory is. The Rangers head into tonight’s action on the outside of the playoff picture (15-15-1, 31 points) and that has much to do with their poor start to the season — the Blueshirts opened 3-7-0, which included a grueling nine-game road swing while MSG was being renovated.
And that’s what makes this homestand so important. The schedule allows for few opportunities moving forward — New York won’t have anything longer than a four-game home set for the rest of the season — and, when the slate was first released, everybody looked at this stretch as the time when New York would surge forward.
Problem is, it’s just not happening.
“We’re pretty frustrated,” Ryan McDonagh said. “We may think we’re doing some good things out there but it’s not nearly at the consistent level it needs to be in order for us to be a hard team to play against and the team we know we’re capable of being.”
The Edmonton Oilers made a move Sunday, recalling defenseman Jordan Oesterle from the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL.
In 18 games with the Condors this season, the 24-year-old Oesterle has three goals and 11 points.
The decision comes one day after Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson missed Saturday’s contest against the rival Calgary Flames because of a lower-body injury.
While he isn’t a flashy player, Larsson seems to have made a positive impression on the Oilers coaching staff during his first season in Edmonton following last summer’s blockbuster trade involving scoring winger Taylor Hall.
No surprise this development is leading to questions about the health of Larsson, with the Oilers set to begin the second half of a six-game home stand and sitting second in the Pacific Division standings.
Heavyweight fighters Jared Boll and Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves during the second period of Sunday’s game between the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues.
Those were some thunderous right hands thrown there, both combatants landing their fair share of punches before officials finally intervened.
The Minnesota Wild bested the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, and now sit in sole possession of first place in the Central Division.
Playing the second half of a back-to-back situation that involved travel from Dallas, where Minnesota won Saturday, the Wild fell behind Chicago courtesy two goals from Patrick Kane. Sure, the first goal on Devan Dubnyk was fluttered off the stick of Kane and under the arm of the Minnesota goalie.
But Dubnyk played the remainder of this pivotal game the way Wild fans have become accustomed to since he was acquired. He made 33 saves and was busiest in the second period. Outside of Kane’s second goal, Dubnyk was solid in the middle period and didn’t give up anything the rest of the way. The Wild came back for a 3-2 win. On the road. In hostile territory.
Minnesota, not far removed from a franchise-best 12-game winning streak, now sits at 61 points in 42 games, two points ahead of the Blackhawks and with four fewer games played.
Jason Pominville scored the winner early in the third period.
There are many reasons for the Wild’s success through the first half under coach Bruce Boudreau. Dubnyk’s play has been Vezina caliber. He has a .940 save percentage and a 1.77 goals-against average. Minnesota is second in the league when it comes to the lowest number of goals-against per game and only Washington is better in that category.
The Wild have been scoring plenty, too, fourth in the league with 3.19 goals-for per game, with contributions throughout their lineup.
Free agent signings can always be a risk — an expensive risk — but Eric Staal has rewarded the Wild by producing at just under a point per game rate. He could have his most productive season in several years — at the age of 32 and approaching 1,000 regular season games played.
They won’t have long to enjoy their view from the top.
The Wild host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday to begin a four-game home stand.
Four points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and about to begin a six-game road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning face a tough task trying to climb the Eastern Conference standings.
There was more bad news for the Bolts on Sunday.
Forward Ryan Callahan, who hasn’t played since Jan. 7, will miss approximately four weeks because of a lower-body injury, the club announced.
Callahan made his season debut at the end of October. The start to his season was delayed due to the recovery from hip surgery he underwent to fix an issue from last season. Based on a report from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday, Callahan is once again dealing with a hip injury, although the club didn’t elaborate, announcing it as a lower-body injury.
In 18 games this season, Callahan has two goals and four points.
The Bolts, Stanley Cup contenders that have gone deep into the post-season in each of the last two campaigns, are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Right now, Toronto, Ottawa and Florida all sit ahead of the Lightning in the battle for third in the Atlantic. Now into the second half of the season, they will have to quickly get out of this funk in order to close in the post-season race.
“The results are all that matters,” Brian Boyle told the Tampa Bay Times. “We need to change our attitude a little bit, kind of find our mojo, carry ourselves with a little bit more confidence. We can score quick goals. We can come from behind, jump out to leads and bury teams. We’ve done that in the past with this group.”
The Bolts begin this six-game road trip Monday against the L.A. Kings.