NHL New York Rangers

New York Rangers’ 5 Biggest Games Before Olympics

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Biggest Games Before Olympics

NYR January
Adam Hunger - USA TODAY Sports

There's no other way to say it: the New York Rangers, despite victories in their last two games, completely messed up the most critical part of their schedule. During a stretch in which they played 12 out of 13 games at home, they only won five and came away with points in seven. In other words, out of a possible 26 points they could have earned, the Rangers only got 12.

Fortunately for them, they remain tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, so things could be much worse. At the same time, it is also a major missed opportunity. Now, they find themselves staring at a very difficult stretch of games between Christmas and the Olympic break, beginning on Feb. 10.

If the Rangers are ever going to prove themselves capable of being a team that will be dangerous the rest of the season, this is it. However, they will have to negotiate some very big obstacles. In the next 22 games, 14 of them will be against opponents that currently sit in or close to a playoff spot. They will play two of the best teams in the NHL twice, and will play five against archrivals, including two outdoors.

The Rangers got away with a mediocre homestand. January's schedule will not be anywhere near as forgiving, especially if they play as poorly and uninspired as they did in the majority of their December games.

So are the Rangers capable of asserting themselves? Here are the Rangers' most important games to keep an eye on between now and the Sochi Olympics.

Matt Stillwell is a New York Rangers contributor for rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattNYR12, “like” him on Facebook and connect with him on Google Plus for all NYR news and notes!

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St. Louis Blues, Jan. 23

Russell LaBounty - USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers were defeated by the St. Louis Blues 5-3 back on Oct. 12 in St. Louis. It was most notable for being Martin Biron's final NHL game.

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Chicago Blackhawks, Jan. 8

Rob Grabowski - USA TODAY Sports

This is the Rangers' first test against the best team in the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks, concluding a stretch of six of seven road games against top-flight opponents.

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Jan. 3

Evil Empire
Charles LeClaire - USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers' first game of 2014 is their first road game this season against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers dominated them in their first meeting, but struggled in their most recent match despite the Penguins missing half their roster due to injury.

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Philadelphia Flyers, Jan. 12

Eric Hartline - USA TODAY Sports

Following a very rough start, the Philadelphia Flyers have righted the ship and now stand neck-and-neck with the Rangers for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Will this game be a battle for that No. 8 seed?

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Devils/Islanders, Jan. 26/29 (Stadium Series)

Stadium Series
Ed Mulholland - USA TODAY Sports

Two years after playing the NHL Winter Classic, the Rangers will play two outdoor games this season. They will face the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium. This is an opportunity to show a national audience just how much the Rangers have improved as a team, if at all. Regardless, there's nothing like an outdoor hockey game.