Rangers are ready for their annual California Challenge

 

Photo credit:  Harry How/Getty Images

Photo credit: Harry How/Getty Images

It happens every season Ranger fans. Last season, the Rangers kicked the schedule off on the road in California and we all remember how that went. One of those games sent the Rangers backup net-minder Marty Biron into retirement and so began the Cam Talbot era. That trip started with a win in Los Angeles against the Kings but quickly became a disaster with blowout losses to the Sharks and Ducks.

Good news is that some of the struggling Rangers have returned to play hockey again. Players like Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello were just a bit off and it was hurting the team at both ends of the ice. Chris Kreider has goals in his last two and Mats Zuccarello has four points in his last five games. Having these two top six players performing, gives the Rangers two lines up front that are getting the job done.

The schedule puts the Rangers against stronger competition the entire month!

[su_pullquote]”Yeah this is a great challenge, and it’s a real good time for it, too,” noted veteran center Dominic Moore on Sunday. “We’re all about trying to get better, and the way you get better is by facing tough challenges and playing against the best, the toughest teams.” Jim Cerny BlueShirtsUnited.com. [/su_pullquote]

At this point in the season the Rangers have things moving in the right direction. The Rangers are on their best run of the season with a 10-1 stretch in which they’ve outscored their opponents 40-17.

The Kings are the defending champs and this will be the first time the Rangers have been in the Staples Center since game five of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Ducks are the top team in the league as far as points go. The San José Sharks are no slouch with forty-five points so far this season and hold the second wild card in the West.

The Islanders are no longer the easy win they used to be for the Rangers.

After the road trip through California, the Rangers also have a rematch with division rival New York Islanders. Arguably the top team in the Metropolitan division, the New York Islanders finally have a blue line and a goaltender able to hold them in games. With the acquisition of Jaroslav Halak, the Islanders no longer have to win games 4-3 and 5-4.

General manager Garth Snow struck while the iron was hot acquiring defenseman Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy. Garth Snow took advantage of the salary cap by taking two defenseman from cap strapped teams like Boston and Chicago respectively and along with other moves, he made the Islanders a top team in the East.

Jesper Fast has moved up to the Rangers third line

Jesper Fast, NYR (nhl)

Alain Vigneault made alterations to the lineup during the past two or three games with some emphasis being put on the bottom six. As New York Post’s Brett Crygalis wrote, Tanner Glass will be the healthy scratch again heading into Anaheim.

Tanner Glass has been a ball and chain on fourth line players Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast all season long. J.T. Miller replaced Tanner Glass on the fourth line left-wing and Lee Stempniak was moved down to the fourth right-wing position.  Jesper Fast, who is now on the 3rd line, played extremely well in Saturday’s 6-1 whipping of the Buffalo Sabres where he added his third goal of the season.

Head Coach Alain Vigneault moved Jesper Fast up a line to play with Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin and the result was a resounding success. The Rangers used all four lines well the last couple games against teams they should beat and did. Per BlueshirtsUnited the Rangers will fly to California tomorrow and begin to prepare for the Ducks on Tuesday.

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I began watching the Rangers in 1990 when I was 9 years old. Soon after a lifelong friend of... More about Bob-O