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Weary Rangers try to end late November malaise

New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault looks

New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault looks on against the San Jose Sharks in the first period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Monday, October 19, 2015. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

November began with the Rangers on a roll: seven straight wins. Unless they beat the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, the month will end with the Blueshirts losing five of the last seven.

"During every season, individually and collectively you are challenged mentally, sometimes through your play and sometimes through the demands of the schedule," coach Alain Vigneault said after Saturday's 3-0 shutout at the hands of the Flyers. "I feel this group knows how to respond. Obviously, it would be hard to tell by the way we are playing now."

The oft-used excuse of being unable to string together a solid 60 minutes is proving true.

"We've been playing in patches," and not maintaining any momentum, defenseman Dan Girardi said Saturday after their fifth game in eight days. Players were too proud to admit fatigue, noting that the Flyers were playing their fourth game in six nights, but the weariness showed, especially in the second period. The Rangers were off Sunday, and Girardi did say that the team would appreciate the time to "clear our heads" and spend time with families.

The Hurricanes (8-11-4, 4-6-1 on the road), who lost to the Rangers, 3-0, at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 10, could be the right opponent for a collective recovery. Rick Nash and Jesper Fast scored in an 11-second span in the first period and Ryan McDonagh scored early in the third in that win, although Henrik Lundqvist, who will start Monday, had to stop 33 shots. The Rangers managed only 23.

With that victory, their sixth straight in a nine-game run, the Rangers led the Metropolitan Division by four points. Now, after a season-high three consecutive losses, they stand a point behind the surging Washington Capitals and just six points in front of the Islanders and Penguins.

In the last six games, Nash has six of the team's 13 goals. Derek Stepan, who is expected to miss his second straight game with two broken ribs, and six other players have one apiece.

Besides the continual defensive lapses, the team's blue liners haven't scored in those six games. Keith Yandle hasn't found the net in 16 games.

Up front, Chris Kreider has one goal in the last 10, Derick Brassard one in eight. "I feel we're a little shaky in the offensive zone," Brassard said. "It's us players that have to answer the bell."


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