The New York Rangers enter tonight's matchup with the Oilers playing perhaps their best hockey of the year. The Blueshirts are on a season-best 4-game winning streak that's seen them massacre opponents by a cumulative score of 18-6. With 65 points, and a 15-5-1 mark their last 21, the Rangers are officially a team on the rise.
Their opponents tonight? Not so much.
The Edmonton Oilers are a bad hockey team, no other way to put it. Their 44 points is second worst in the league, as is their minus-46 goal differential. If it's supposed to be difficult to score goals in the NHL, no one's told Edmonton's opponents. The Oilers surrender a porous 3.34 goals per game–worst in the league. It boggles the mind how a team with not one, not two, but three number one overall picks on the roster could be so abysmal. At 2.55 goals per game, even their scoring numbers are below average.
That being said, rookie bench boss Dallas Eakins' club has won 4 of 5. But even that's a little misleading. In those 5 games, Edmonton has been outshot–often badly–in each and every one, and their current streak is more the product of the heroics of Ben Scrivens and Mr. Universe–Ilya Bryzgalov–than improved team play.
With Pittsburgh looming tomorrow in the Rangers' last game before the Olympic break, the Blueshirts, and goaltender Cam Talbot, who gets the start, have to avoid letting this one turn into a trap game.
Also of note is that it's the last game before Glen Sather's self-imposed deadline for a decision on Ryan Callahan's future in New York. Neither a trade nor a contract extension appears imminent, though the two sides are expected to touch base today.
In fact, Callahan was installed as the front of the net guy on one of the Rangers' power play units at todays morning skate, practicing with Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, and Ryan McDonagh. The other unit featured the Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello unit up front, with Brad Richards and Dan Girardi at the points, per Pat Leonard of the Daily News.
It will be interesting to see how the Callahan unit functions in a game, and more specifically, which of the four forwards slides back to the point. Brad Richards has been manning the point for almost the full two minutes on power plays of late. With the Rangers 0 for their last 14 with the man advantage, we'll see if that changes, or if not, which forwards' PP time is cut to accommodate Richards.
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