Now that the New York Rangers have the Winter Classic in the rearview mirror, the team can now focus on the road ahead towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their journey begins Wednesday night at MSG.
Forty-two regular season games are all that remains in 2017-18 NHL season for the New York Rangers as they’ll kick off the second half of their season on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden against the Chicago BlackHawks. Following this original six matchup, the Rangers will only have 16 more home games remaining on the slate.
The Rangers are 15-6-3 at home this season and are 5-2-1 in their last eight games at the garden.
“We’ve been good at home all year,” said Marc Staal, via Matt Calamia of newyorkrangers.com. “We want to make it a hard place to play and make teams know they’re in for a tough night. We’ll try and keep that going tomorrow.”
At practice on Tuesday, forward Rick Nash said, “It was obviously an emotional game and an emotional week and even month leading up to the excitement. It’s kind of nice that it’s behind us now and we can move on with the season and another big two points up for grabs tomorrow.”
Head coach Alian Vigneault feels the Blackhawks are a good opponent to face following the Winter Classic. “I’m happy we’ve got an Original Six team coming in like Chicago,” he said. “With their skill set, their reputation that they bring to the table, it should have everyone’s attention. The Blackhawks are currently 18-14-6, 42 points, which currently has them slotted in last place in the Central division.
Following the game tomorrow night, the Rangers will have to get back into their “Road Warrior” mentality as the team will play 25 road games to conclude the season. The Rangers only have six wins away from MSG this season.
The schedule now gets harder for the Rangers as they will play only four games at home in the month of January. The team will play 12 games in 25 days which includes their “bye” week which begins on Jan. 8.
“If you’re not paying attention to detail or not working the right way, you’re not really getting into the flow and it breaks up a little bit,” Staal said. “You just have to make sure that when it’s time to play you’re ready to go and understanding that the points are huge, especially going into the second half. They’re going to be big going down the stretch, so we have to make sure that we have a good month.”
Chris Kreider will remain out of the lineup for at least two months due to a blood clot in his right arm.
Vinni Lettieri will remain with the team through this weekend and then the team will decide if he will stay up with the team or go back to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL.