The New York Rangers have been at the top of their game lately, winning five in a row and six of their last seven games. This has lifted them to second in the Metropolitan division and puts them in good position to get into the NHL playoffs. Their next three games include a tour of western Canada with visits to the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks. None of these three teams are in a playoff spot in the Western Conference and only Vancouver has a fighting chance of squeezing into the final wild card slot. With the Rangers rolling, this will give the team an opportunity to distance themselves from the teams chasing below.
The Rangers should not take their opponents lightly, however. When a team is out of the playoff race, there is still the role of spoiler. The New York Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres play the spoilers in the east while Edmonton and Calgary have the same opportunity out west. Both the Oilers and Flames are tough teams with young players who have a lot to prove.
There are several things that the Rangers can use these games to improve as well. First is that Martin St. Louis must show up to these games. Fans are getting impatient with the right winger as he has yet to have a significant impact. The cost of acquisition was high and the team wants a good return on investment from the same player who was carrying the Tampa Bay Lightning all year.
The Rangers must also sort out their lines as Chris Kreider had surgery and will be out for an extended period of time. This has allowed St. Louis to play with a multitude of players including Derick Brassard, Brad Richards and Rick Nash at various times. Things will begin to click, but it may take a bit longer than planned.
The team may consider starting Cameron Talbot in one of these games. The team does not have any more back-to-back games scheduled, so Henrik Lundqvist could start them all in theory. Lundqvist has been a workhorse goalie for most of his career and hates when he doesn’t play, yet giving him some rest while allowing Talbot to continue providing reliable goaltending may be the best option in the long-term picture.