Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 2/16/12

The New York Rangers have stayed relatively consistent through the month of January and the first half of February, but it's been quite a while since they've been able to string together five straight wins. In fact, the last time they accomplished such a feat, the Blueshirts managed to collect five victories in a row stretching from December 30 to January 10. This may sound crazy, but it's about time the Rangers are finding themselves in this position once again. New York has worked to gain a eight-point lead on the second place Boston Bruins, and they will look to continue that with yet another two points tonight. 

The opponent, however, will be one that is unfamiliar to the Rangers this season. The Chicago Blackhawks will be visiting Madison Square Garden for the one and only time this evening, and are coming in slumping majorly having lost six straight games. So, essentially, it's the battle of the streaks tonight with the Rangers going for their fifth straight and win and the Hawks their seventh straight loss. Of course, seven losses is not an accomplishment Chicago will be proud of and you have to expect them to be extremely eager to put and end to this once and for all.

Playing the first place team in the Eastern Conference while under the bright lights of MSG are ideal conditions for the Hawks to break the slump since it will be a tremendous confidence-booster if they do. The Rangers must be prepared for a very hungry hockey team tonight, because I am afraid of what will happen if they get off to another one of their slow starts. The Hawks are going to plan to get on the board early to take the life out of the building, so the Rangers will need to match that early intensity. 

And not only have the Blackhawks lost six straight, but they are also 1-8-1 in their last ten games. Everything is going wrong for this team right now as they've dropped to sixth overall in the West - just three points ahead of the ninth place Calgary Flames. Several of their star players, including Patrick Kane, have not produced as they normally do, and that's heavily affected the team this season. It's been one big slump and the past few weeks have been the peak, or the rock bottom depending on how you look at it. 

Meanwhile, the Rangers have won eight of their last ten games and have recorded points in nine of those games. Still, though, head coach John Tortorella feels as if the team has not been on the top of their game, which is scary in a way. This Hawks team is one that the Rangers should be able to dominate tonight, but nothing is guaranteed. As I said, Chicago will be hungry so this is not an automatic win. However, if the Rangers can pick up an early lead in the first period and continue to capitalize on powerplay chances, it will be smooth sailing to another two points in the standings. 

Watch out for Marian Gaborik in this game because he's been all over the place in the team's last two games. He hasn't scored a goal in either, but he's been a dominant force out there with the puck. I have a feeling he will take advantage of a vulnerable opponent in the Hawks tonight and have a big game. When Gabby is on, he's on. 

Also, captain Ryan Callahan has six goals in his last four games, four of which were scored on the powerplay. He's been red hot. 

Marty Biron in goal tonight for the Rangers.

New York Rangers Lineup

Anisimov-Stepan-Gaborik

Hagelin-Richards-Callahan

Dubinsky-Boyle-Prust

Rupp-Mitchell-Bickel

McDonagh-Staal

Del Zotto-Stralman

Staal-Eminger

Biron

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