Why Rangers are ‘desperate’ for two wins before NHL All-Star break

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a subpar road trip, the New York Rangers desperately want to bank a pair of wins before an eight-day break in their schedule.

That won’t be so easy, though. The Rangers play on consecutive nights, hosting the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights on Friday and then traveling to Ottawa for a road game against the Senators on Saturday.

These two games, followed by a bye week and the NHL All-Star break, come after a 1-2-1 road trip that ended when the Rangers blew a 2-0 lead in San Jose and lost 3-2 to the bottom-feeding Sharks in overtime Tuesday.

Rangers ‘desperate for two wins before NHL All-Star break

NHL: New York Rangers at Vegas Golden Knights
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

“Anytime you go into a break, you want to finish off strong,” center Mika Zibanejad said Thursday. “Our road trip wasn’t as good as we hoped for but we get a chance here with two more games before the break to really do something.

“We may want to be a little more desperate in a good way to find a win here, two wins.”

That’s music to Peter Laviolette’s ears. When told by reporters Thursday that several players discussed an added sense of urgency heading into the break, the Rangers coach was pleased.

“Urgency is … the energy you put into the game,” he said. “If that came from them … that’s a good word to use.”

Related: Larry Brooks believes Rangers not hard enough to play against

Rangers hold on to first place in Metropolitan Division despite recent struggles

The losses in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Jose on the recent road trip are one thing. But the issues are bigger. The Rangers are 3-5-2 in their past 10 games, including a season-long four-game skid (0-3-1). They’ve won two consecutive games once since late December. 

The sky’s not falling. The Blueshirts remain first in the Metropolitan Division, though their lead is down to two points ahead of the second-place Carolina Hurricanes. Kaapo Kakko is still feeling his way, but at least the forward is healthy and back in the lineup. Filip Chytil has returned to New York and is practicing with the team again. Chytil’s return from an upper-body injury could be on the horizon.

But would a pair of wins heading into the break be welcomed by the Rangers?

Absolutely.

“We’d like to win these games to get back on track, win hockey games, go into the break and come out of the break knowing you had a little bit of success in the six or seven games prior,” Laviolette explained. “You put a winning record together and started to push in the direction that’s going to move us up the standings as opposed to staying at .500.”

Laviolette pointed out that a win against the Golden Knights puts the Rangers at 4-2-1 in their past seven games. Another against the Senators and we’re talking about a 5-2-1 stretch before the break.

That would shift the recent negative narrative with the Rangers. And give the players something to feel good about with a week off between games.

All-Star center Vincent Trocheck wasn’t sounding any alarms Thursday.

“We’ve proven what we’re capable of. It’s just a matter of getting back to that.”

That begins Friday against the Golden Knights, who knocked off the Blueshirts 4-1 last week in Sin City.

“It’s a big game. It’s Vegas. We just played them and didn’t get the results we were looking for, so we want to fix that problem,” Laviolette said. “We have two games before the break. Let’s make sure we dial in and focus and show we’re ready to play.”

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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