With the NHL season back in action, many teams and their fans are wondering what the last part of their season will look like. For the New York Rangers and their fans, the main question is whether or not the Rangers can continue where they left off before the Olympic break, winning eight of their last 10 games before the stoppage in play.
The Rangers resume their season on Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks and arguably the league’s most formidable offense, a good test to see if the Rangers will come back from the break with the same intensity and success as before.
One of the setbacks that the Rangers will face in their upcoming games is the injury that leading scorer Mats Zuccarello suffered while playing for Team Norway in the Olympics. Zuccarello broke his hand in a loss to Russia in the Olympics and will now be out of action for three to four weeks as the Rangers’ team doctors estimate.
With Zuccarello out, the Rangers will have to rely on their other top scorers to fill the void left by the Zuccarello injury. Star winger Rick Nash will be looked upon to continue scoring and provide the Rangers with the offensive support they need to continue their success.
The Rangers’ defense will also need to continue right where it left off as they were the driving force that fueled the Rangers’ success before the break.
With the added distraction of drama and confusion from trade rumors swirling around, focus and an ability to ignore the distractions will also be key to the Rangers’ success as the season begins to enter the home stretch. Head coach Alain Vigneault has been quoted as saying that he believes the trade rumors are distracting and potentially harmful to both the focus and morale of the team; however, this is where Vigneault can show that he is a good coach by rallying his players through the confusion and getting them to focus on the final goal of the season, no pun intended.
This Thursday will be the Rangers’ first test after the break, but it will also set the precedent for their play for the rest of the season. If the Rangers pick up right where they left off then it will be fun to watch the team’s success the rest of the season. If they do not come out and continue what they started earlier in 2014, well, let’s just hope that does not happen.