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Litmus Test: New York Rangers Host Blues, Kevin Klein Makes His Debut

January 23rd, 2014 at 3:14 PM
By Ricky Cibrano

'20100206 Kevin Klein' photo (c) 2010, Dan4th Nicholas - license:
The St. Louis Blues, despite losing 3 of 4, have been one of the the leagues very best teams. At 33-11-5, the physically imposing Blues are 4th best in the league, and are tied for the lead with a 1.49 5 on 5 Goals For/Against Ratio. They're big, defensively sound, surprisingly prolific offensively, and have perhaps the leagues best defense corp. 

Plus, you can bet they'll be in a bad mood for this one.

St. Louis was embarrassed in their last game–a 7-1 shellacking at the hands of the Devils–who usually don't score that much in a week, let alone a single game. Ken Hitchcock said: 

"We were poor right across the board. Poor with our discipline. Our top players took poor penalties. Poor in every aspect of our game."

The good news for the Rangers is that the Blues–traditionally a low scoring team under Hitchcock–appear to be coming back down to earth a bit offensively. Despite averaging 3.41 goals per game (2nd in the league), St. Louis has been held to two or less goals in 5 of their last 6 games. Is it a slump or a regression to the norm? It's too early to tell, but not many believed the Blue's top scorer, Alex Steen (25 goals despite missing 11 games), could really make a run at 50, even if he had stayed healthy.

Like the boys from St. Louie, the Rangers are coming off a loss they'd like to forget–a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Islanders. This is the Blueshirts' last game before the pair of Stadium Series contests, and it would certainly be less than ideal to step outside with the specter of a two game losing streak hanging over their collective heads. 

New defenseman Kevin Klein and the rest of the Rangers' D will be put the test, as St. Louis loves to chip it in and bang bodies on the forecheck. Alain Vigneault said of the trade:

"It's gonna give our D corps a much better look in my estimation. We'll see tonight."

As expected, the righty will slot in on the 3rd pair with John Moore. The 29-year old Klein will be donning a jersey with something other than the Pred's Sabertooth cat for the first time in his NHL career tonight.

"I didn't see it coming," Klein said of leaving the only organization he had known. "I was surprised. It'll be a change for sure coming to NY and I'm looking forward to it."

Henrik Lundqvist (17-17-3, 2.54, .915), who's been back on the ice at practice the last two days, is expected to start tonight. Jaroslav Halak, who hasn't played well enough to quell the speculation that St. Louis might be in the market for a goalie, gets the nod for the Blues.  Halak is 3-1 with a 1.89 GAA and .926 SV% since January 9th. Youngster Vladimir Tarasenko–a Russian Olympian–will be back in the lineup for St. Louis after missing two games with the flu.

Tags: Alain Vigneault, Alex Steen, Henrik Lundqvist, Hockey, Jaroslav Halak, John Moore, Ken Hitchcock, Kevin Klein, New York, New York Rangers, NHL, St. Louis Blues, Vladimir Tarasenko

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