The New York Rangers embark on yet another long road trip Thursday night when they face the Dallas Stars. It starts a five-game trip that comes at a pivotal moment in their season. They have lost three of their last four games, scoring only four goals in the process. They have their full lineup back with the return of Rick Nash, and the team’s offensive struggles continue. This trip is a major opportunity for the Rangers to end their struggles and climb back into the thick of the playoff race. Winning at least three out of the five games will help, and it will also tell a lot about where the Rangers are as a team.
The first two games of the trip are winnable. They draw the Stars, at fifth place in the Central Division, but boast a lethal one-two punch in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Then, they face the Nashville Predators, stuck in last place. The Predators are missing their franchise goalie Pekka Rinne. Like the Rangers, they are a team that struggles to score, so it is key for the Rangers to score early and often and keep them on their toes. If the Rangers cannot outscore another anemic offensive team like Nashville, it is a major red flag.
Then, they head to Florida to face the upstart Tampa Bay Lightning, followed by the Florida Panthers. The Lightning will be without their superstar Steven Stamkos. Therefore, despite the Lightning standing at second in the Eastern Conference, they are vulnerable and the Rangers’ task doesn’t seem as daunting. The Panthers gave the Rangers fits during their visit to Madison Square Garden on Nov. 10 despite the Rangers winning the game. Finally, they face the Boston Bruins on Black Friday. How important that game is will be determined by how the Rangers perform in the previous four games.
The Rangers cannot allow this road trip to be the disaster their nine-game one to start the season was. As they currently stand in ninth place in the conference, the team needs to use this trip as a springboard toward the top of the standings. The Rangers are reeling following their last four games, and to spiral farther out of control in these next five games would be disastrous. This is the time to make a statement.