Jason Brough

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09:  Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers skates during the second period of Game Three of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Madison Square Garden on June 9, 2014 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Just when things started to get bad for the Rangers…they got worse

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The reeling New York Rangers aren’t about to get any help from their schedule. Tuesday, it’s a visit from the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars. Saturday, the top team in the East, the Washington Capitals, comes calling.

And for a Rangers group that went 4-7-2 in December, then got shut out in its first game of 2016, the losses are starting to take a mental toll.

“To be honest, the last month, month and a half, it’s been what we take out of the game instead of we won the game and move on and keep going,” veteran defenseman Dan Girardi told the New York Post. “It’s tough in here to keep answering the same things, what can you take out of the game, what happened.”

Despite the significant red flags that were raised during the Rangers’ 16-3-2 start to the season, not many expected things to turn this badly for the Blueshirts. Whereas before they were winning games in which they were outshot badly, now they’re losing games in which they carry the play.

Saturday in Sunrise, they outshot the Panthers, 40-20, but lost 3-0.

“It’s funny how this game works,” Derek Stepan told reporters. “Sometimes we don’t play as good and come up out of a period up 2-0, and tonight we played a strong first period and we come out of it down 1-0.”

“It’s about better execution, and as a group, we saw it [Saturday] night, the execution was a little bit off and we couldn’t capitalize,” coach Alain Vigneault added.

And on top of everything else — just after they got healthy again — now the Rangers could be without Chris Kreider versus the Stars. He’s doubtful with a cut hand.

Next six games for the Rangers

Rangers

Price’s rehab ‘going well,’ but not expected back anytime soon

Carey Price
AP
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The Montreal Canadiens will be without their star goalie for at least a little while longer.

Carey Price‘s rehab is going well, but he is not ready to get back on the ice just yet,” Habs coach Michel Therrien told reporters this morning.

Price has not played since Nov. 25 when he suffered what the club has only called a lower-body injury. He was expected to miss a minimum of six weeks, so it’s not like he was supposed to be back by now.

The Canadiens — who went 3-11-0 in December — got a much-needed solid performance from backup Mike Condon in the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.

However, it’ll be Ben Scrivens who starts Tuesday in Philadelphia (on NBCSN).

The Canadiens also play Wednesday at home versus New Jersey. Condon is expected to start that one.

Related: With Winter Classic win, Canadiens ‘turned the chapter on’ a miserable December

Five goalie stats you may find interesting

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 19: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates around in between whistles at the First Niagara Center on December 19, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)
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6 — Shutouts for Corey Crawford. That’s the most in the NHL this season. He got his sixth yesterday versus Ottawa, helping his save percentage to improve to .925, the sixth highest among goalies with at least 20 starts. In Crawford’s career, the 31-year-old has won two Stanley Cups and has a save percentage of .921 in 76 playoff games. Among active goalies, only Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury have played more postseason games than he has. Yet Crawford often gets left off the list of “elite” goalies. Which doesn’t seem fair, really.

.923 — The Islanders’ team save percentage, fourth highest in the NHL. That’s a significant improvement over previous seasons. The Isles ranked 26th in 2014-15 (.903) and 30th in 2013-14 (.894). As PHT has noted so many times in the past, the back-up goalie is an important member of the team, and can be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. Though he’s struggled in recent outings, Thomas Greiss has been excellent for the Isles overall. The 29-year-old is 12-6-2 with a .928 save percentage. Those numbers are actually better than Jaroslav Halak‘s (10-6-3, .923).

.907Kari Lehtonen‘s save percentage for the Dallas Stars. Which isn’t very good. In fact, among netminders with at least 15 starts, it ranks tied for 31st out of 36. This is why GM Jim Nill went out and got Antti Niemi, who’s 16-6-4 with a .918 save percentage. It’s not always easy playing goal for the run-and-gun Dallas Stars, but thanks in large part to Niemi, their team save percentage has improved from 29th last year (.896) — when Lehtonen didn’t have a reliable backup — to 13th (.915) this year.

.899 — The San Jose Sharks’ team save percentage, 26th in the NHL. Which is to say, GM Doug Wilson’s gamble on the inexperienced tandem of Martin Jones and Alex Stalock isn’t really paying off. Jones is 16-12-2 with a .910 save percentage, while Stalock is 2-5-0 with an .893 save percentage. Yesterday, Stalock was assigned to the AHL for conditioning purposes.

.909Pekka Rinne‘s save percentage. Far lower than what we’re used to seeing from the Predators’ number one. Nashville doesn’t have a very reliable backup, either; Carter Hutton has only appeared in five games and has a .895 save percentage. So, how have the Preds managed to go 19-13-7 and build a 6-point playoff cushion? Easy: they’re only giving up 26.9 shots per game, the second fewest in the NHL after Carolina (26.1).

Report: Rychel requested trade out of Columbus

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Apparently, Jonathan Drouin isn’t the only first-round pick of the 2013 draft to have made a trade request already in his young career.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, so too has Blue Jackets winger Kerby Rychel.

Rychel is an interesting case. You remember the dust-up at development camp, when Rychel’s camp — agent, father, possibly others — met with Blue Jackets’ officials and demanded an explanation as to why Rychel seems parked so deep on the depth chart? The Dispatch has been told repeatedly that Rychel asked for a trade before the season started, but the Blue Jackets have shown no interest in trading him. The New York Rangers, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Anaheim, Boston and Detroit have all reportedly shown interest, and why not? Rychel is a point-a-game player in the AHL and has plenty of sand paper.

Rychel was drafted out of OHL Windsor, where he was teammates with the likes of Alexander Khokhlachev and Josh Ho-Sang. The 21-year-old son of former NHLer Warren Rychel has played 16 games for the Blue Jackets, including 11 this season. While he’s still searching for his first NHL goal, he does have six career assists.

Rychel is currently with AHL Lake Erie, where he has five goals and 13 assists in 20 games this season.

Disappointed Bruins ‘played one of our worst games at the worst time’

during the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
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FOXBOROUGH — For whatever reason, the Boston Bruins came out flat on one of the biggest stages in hockey.

Claude Julien couldn’t say why, exactly. The Bruins’ head coach didn’t want to use the suspension of Brad Marchand or the absence of injured center David Krejci as an excuse.

Sometimes, a team just doesn’t have it. And the Bruins definitely didn’t Friday, despite the energy they might have gained from almost 70,000 fans in the stands at Gillette Stadium. The B’s deservedly lost the Winter Classic, 5-1, to their rivals from Montreal.

“I think we just had a tough night, “Julien said. “The unfortunate part is that I think we played one of our worst games at the worst time.  I think it just seemed like it was one of those nights we couldn’t get anything going the first period. They were all over us. And it just didn’t matter what we tried to do here we just couldn’t get it going.”

The Bruins were outshot, 14-3, in the first period. They only gave up one goal, but their opponents were emboldened.

“I think that first period was one of our best periods of hockey this year,” said Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was equally flummoxed when asked why his team didn’t seem mentally prepared from the outset.

“I don’t know. Tough to say,” Rask said. “But when things go wrong you have to stick with the game plan and play your system and we didn’t do that. So then it just snowballs and it becomes 5-1.”

The Bruins have now lost four of their last five. They host one of the NHL’s best teams, the Washington Capitals, on Tuesday. Then they have to hit the road for five games in eight days.

“It’s disappointing tonight on a big stage like the Winter Classic to not show up like that,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “But at the same time, you have to put it behind you and move forward. We’re playing some big teams coming up and it’s huge points for us.”

“Things aren’t going to get any easier right now,” added Julien. “I don’t know if we anticipate having anybody back for the next game yet or not. So we have to move on with what we have.”