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Rangers enter “must-win” battle against 1st place Devils

Rangers must win Monday
Edmonton Oilers center Ryan McLeod (71) and New York Rangers defenseman Libor Hajek (25) skate into goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
AP Photos

Is it too early to call an end-of-November game a “must-win” for a team over .500? For the New York Rangers, that answer is no. 

New York is reeling. They’ve lost their last two games in disappointing and “embarrassing” fashion according to some. Anaheim’s first regulation win came at the expense of the Rangers the day before Thanksgiving. Three days later, the Blueshirts blew a 3-0 lead late in the third period to lose to Edmonton in regulation. 

It doesn’t get any easier for a team with championship aspirations on Monday night. 

Before the 2022-23 NHL season began, the New Jersey Devils were considered a team on the rise but needed things to go perfectly for them to have a chance in a loaded Metro with teams like the Rangers, Hurricanes, Penguins, and Islanders all firmly supplanted above them. 

Over a month into the season and it’s the Devils who look like the unstoppable force in the league’s best division. New Jersey is at the top of the Metro division with an 18-4-0 record and has a league-leading 36 points to start. Jersey’s strong start to the season has caught the eyes of the rest of the league, including the Rangers’ head coach. 

“They (the Devils) are a fast quick, hockey team. They’re not lucky: they deserve to be where they are at.” Gallant told reporters in his pregame press conference. “If there’s a team I want our guys to play like, it’s this team.”

The Rangers, who many thought would be the class of the division, sit at a disappointing 10-8-4 with injury concerns and consistency issues plaguing the entire roster. 

That doesn’t mean New York isn’t looking for answers. After their 4-3 loss to Edmonton on Saturday, the team had a players-only meeting led by captain Jacob Trouba. The team feels it’s ready to turn the page and start playing better hockey. 

But results are what matter in the NHL. The Rangers have been consistent with their message all season that they can and will play better. They are running out of options to do so as the teams above them increase their playoff leads.

If the season ended today (it doesn’t) the Rangers would miss the playoffs. If there was ever a game that the team needed to win to improve confidence in themselves and reassert themselves as a top team in the Metro division, Monday night against the NHL’s best would be it. 

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