It’s put-up or shut-up time for the New York Rangers.
Following the blockbuster trade for Patrick Kane, and two subsequent losses following, the Rangers enter a point in their season where the team needs to start winning in droves before they can be considered top contenders in a loaded Eastern Conference.
The good news is that with a matchup against the Montreal Canadiens coming Thursday night, it’s a chance for the Rangers to finally play a game at full strength. For the last six contests, New York has dealt with injuries, suspensions, and roster management decisions that left them shorthanded.
Now though, K’Andre Miller is back from his three-game suspension, Tyler Motte is reportedly skating after his concussion, and even Ryan Lindgren is back from an upper-body injury he suffered over a week ago.
The return of Lindgren and Miller is great news for a Rangers defense that has sorely missed their two top defensemen. In fact, in Lindgren’s five-year career, the Blueshirts are a disappointing 37-50-15 according to Stat Muse.
With new faces now being employed and trying to fit in, it’s important for New York to get off on the right foot after a four-day break for the club.
“We’re a team that’s trying to come together and figure out the way we’re going to win – another chance to do that.” Patrick Kane said via the team’s official Twitter page.
New York doesn’t have a lot of time to figure out how they will work together as a group. The game in Montreal is part of a 19-game-35-day stretch where the Rangers need to be able to beat some of their most hated rivals. After the Canadiens, New York faces playoff contenders in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Washington in five straight contests.
There’s no such thing as a buffer in the NHL with the Stanley Cup Playoffs right around the corner. And while they are seated comfortably in third place in the Metropolitan division, things can certainly change with the red-hot Islanders on their tail.
That leaves the Rangers with only one choice. If they can find a way to successfully win against some of the more desperate teams in hockey, that’ll leave their confidence at an all-time high as the playoffs roll around. Falter though, and New York could very well be in a dangerous situation with the rest of the conference looking to attack.
It all starts Thursday night for New York, but the results will ultimately determine where they stand come playoff time.