The first place New York Rangers may be on a four-game winning streak and leading the entire NHL with a 26-9-4 record, but head coach John Tortorella has not made it a secret that he hasn't been satisfied with the club's play in their last two games. In an eventful practice on Monday that followed a day off on Sunday, Tortorella sent his squad back to the locker room a minute into practice and instructed them to return to the ice as a team when they were ready to put forth a better effort. So, after heading through the doors to regroup, the Rangers returned to the ice and practice went on as Tortorella had originally visioned it would. Basically, he's cutting them no slack whatsoever.
New York's most recent wins came against the Florida Panthers last Thursday and then against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. In both games, the Rangers had a poor start that put them in an early hole that they eventually would dig themselves out of. Their start was so disgusting against the Pens that the coach was forced to call an early timeout to put some life in his lineup, which is something he hasn't had to do very often over the course of this season. Tortorella is doing his best to get the message across to his players that they need to come out with more fire and hopefully that will start tonight when they host the Phoenix Coyotes at Madison Square Garden.
As for the Coyotes, they too are coming off a big win in which they trampled the New York Islanders, 5-1, on Saturday. Captain Shane Doan recorded his first career hat trick with just 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock, which is a very familiar number for the 'Yotes. The last time the Rangers met the Coyotes back on December 17 in Phoenix, Brad Richards scored his memorable game-winning backhander with just 0.1 seconds left in regulation. After Richards scored that goal, the Coyotes just stood there dead in their tracks, frozen in disbelief due to what just happened. That bitter taste is most definitely still in their mouths and tonight will be their chance to redeem themselves.
The Coyotes are currently in 11th place in the Western Conference with a 20-17-5 record, and have also lost five of their last seven games. However, it should be noted that the Coyotes are 12-9-2 on the road, as opposed to 8-8-3 at home.
The Rangers, on the other hand, will be kicking off a very busy week with tonight's contest. They will play a total of four games in six nights, two of which are at Madison Square Garden and two that are up in Canada. Maybe this is why coach Tortorella is going through such lengths to keep his club focused, because playing four games in six nights is certainly going to fatigue this team both physically and mentally. The Blueshirts have won nine out of their last ten games and plan on going 13 for their last 14 by the time this week is over. That's going to require some serious focus from everyone.
Like we've discussed time and time again, the Rangers have been very good with coming up with a different way to win in every game. In Pittsburgh it was Henrik Lundqvist and against Florida it was Marian Gaborik. And then you have to go down the line and look at the play the team has gotten from players like Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and even Anton Stralman. The Rangers have had production from their secondary players and that makes a world of a difference in the long-run.
Based on that alone, it is safe to expect the lineup for tonight's contest to remain the same, with Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes.
New York Rangers Lineup