New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello
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The New York Rangers have an opportunity to get back to their winning ways tonight. Can they take advantage against an Ottawa team that’s trending up?

New York Rangers (17-7-3, 37 points-2nd in NHL Metropolitan Division)
Ottawa Senators (14-7-5, 33 points-3rd in NHL Atlantic Division)
Tonight, 7:00 on MSG
Madison Square Garden, New York

By Chris Wengert

The New York Rangers have another opportunity tonight to get back to their winning ways.

The Rangers have been facing some adversity lately, the kind of adversity that really will tell fans what kind of group we have.

You can’t sugarcoat the past couple weeks, because it’s been a rough road for the Blueshirts. However, there have been sparks of life that can keep fans optimistic.

The Rangers lost against Boston, but played really hard. One less mistake from Marc Staal and the Rangers win that game.

In Brooklyn, the Rangers had arguably their best performance of the year. Five more inches to the right on Dan Boyle’s shootout attempt, and the rounds continue.

Yet, with all of this adversity that the Blueshirts have been facing, they are not making excuses. It’s just not in their DNA, and never has been.

Andrew Gross asked Rangers coach Alain Vigneault if there are still lingering injuries with the Rangers defensemen that could be affecting their play. AV had this response:

“I would say that in October, that was a definite possibility,” Vigneault said. “Now we’re at the beginning of December. You should be turning the corner. We’ve got to turn the corner.”

You have to love this quote from AV. In what was a perfect opportunity for Vigneault to lament the recent struggles, he gives a no excuses response.

And that’s what the team needs, because if there is an opportunity for this team to turn the corner, it’s against the Ottawa Senators.

The Sens have played solid hockey lately, winning six of their last eight games. Last night they notched a big overtime win against the Islanders, something the Rangers will want to take advantage of with their speed.

Ottawa has quietly put together some strong special teams play. They have the seventh ranked power play in the league, scoring 21.5 percent of time with the advantage.

The Rangers will have to make smart passes at the blue line when on their own power play, as  the Sens are also first in the league with 6 short handed goals.

Also, be on the lookout for different line combinations:

How the New York Rangers will win:

Fast Start: The Rangers need to take advantage of the emotional game that Ottawa played last night. Colorado was able to lure the Rangers into a grinder after they played the Islanders in a back-to-back, and the Rangers will want to return the favor to Ottawa.

We’re not talking just about possession or strong offensive zone play, but goals. The Rangers need to get the first goal, because the longer Ottawa is allowed to hang around, the more danger the Rangers will find themselves in (a la Philadelphia).

Strong Defensive Positioning: I discussed this in depth yesterday, but the Rangers have been sloppy with their team defense. While a fast break out, stretch passes, and speed are a big part of the Rangers game, they need to make sure they move as a unit with all five players covering their respective assignments before they break out.

New York Rangers Fans: It’s Time To Lower Our Expectations

Leaving opponents alone in front of the net has become habitual, and the Blueshirts need to improve this part of their game.

The stage is set for the Rangers. Whether or not they take advantage will tell fans a lot about this team. Hopefully fans and players alike will “turn the corner” tonight.
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I've been a die hard Rangers and Giants fan for as long as I can remember. I enjoy sharing opinions, and hearing from fans that love their teams just as much as I do. Henrik Lundqvist makes all of us look like mere mortals. E-mail me at: