Friday's Morning Skate: Time For Some Home Wins
The Rangers have been one of the best teams in the NHL this season on the road, where they have posted an impressive 14-10-0 record coming off Wednesday's 3-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks in Chicago, but where the Rangers can finally vault themselves into contention as a serious playoff contender is by playing much better on home ice, where they are only 8-10-3 this year. Another opportunity to get on a roll at Madison Square Garden presents itself as the Rangers begin a four-game homestand tonight against the Dallas Stars, and with seven of their next eight games on home ice.
"We need to figure that out, I think," Brian Boyle said of the team's play at The Garden following the morning skate Friday. "It's something where we need to motivate ourselves, especially at the starts of games here to get the crowd into it and then gain momentum with how we play. We need to make it more difficult for teams coming in here, for sure."
There have been some big-time victories at MSG this year, including a 5-1 thrashing of the Penguins on November 6th and the 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on November 30th, but consistency has been missing from the Rangers both on a game-to-game basis, as well as on an in-game basis, too, at The Garden.
"We're trying to figure that out, and it's been frustrating to us because we want to make this a hard place to play in," explained defenseman Ryan McDonagh. "If we want to make it to where we want to be, and to make the playoffs, we've got to start getting points here at home and stringing together more wins."
The Rangers have earned points in three straight Garden contests dating back to right before the holiday break in late December. Back-to-back wins over the Minnesota Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs on December 22 and 23 helped ease the pain of a largely unsuccessful 3-4-2 homestand, and the Rangers followed by rallying for a point in Monday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets--a point earned on a two-goal third-period rally.
This homestand will see the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings follow the Stars into the building over the next week, meaning that things will not get any easier for the Rangers at MSG.
Last season the Rangers were 16-6-2 at Madison Square Garden and only 10-12-2 on the road. The Rangers have had a winning record at home in eight consecutive seasons, including a sterling 27-12-2 mark two years ago.
The Rangers will go with the same lineup Friday as the one which beat the Blackhawks on Wednesday night, meaning that Daniel Carcillo remains in the lineup and J.T. Miller will sit out another contest as a healthy scratch alongside defenseman Justin Falk.
Carcillo, who moved into his new place in the city during Thursday's day off, will be making his Madison Square Garden home debut against the Stars after spending so many years as a loathed rival, primarily when he played with the Flyers.
"I've always loved playing here," Carcillo said Friday morning. "Hopefully the fans give me a warm welcome and then appreciate what I do out there."
Head coach Alain Vigneault did not feel the need to change his lineup after such a strong all-around effort on Wednesday.
"We did a real good job of playing both ways, creating offense and playing defense," stated Vigneault. "I like what Dan brought. He didn't play a lot, but when he did he was physical and I think we need that element tonight."
Henrik Lundqvist, who made a season-high 41 saves against the Stars down in Dallas on November 21, will once again face the Stars this evening. He will be making his sixth start in the past seven games, and is coming off a 35-save performance in Chicago.