Practice Report: "We're Gonna Have To Bear Down"
The Rangers have won three in a row, six of eight, and nine of 12 heading into the final of week of action prior to the Olympic Break, but don't think for a second that this group is taking their recent success for granted. Coming off a three-day break in the schedule, the Rangers are hungry to finish this stretch of the season in positive fashion, with three games in four nights this week.
"Teams now are scouting us, they see how we are scoring, so we're going to have to bear down," explained alternate captain Brad Richards. "Mentally we're going to have to bear down, take it as a challenge because in the month of January we were one of the hottest teams in the league, and there is responsibility that comes with that success."
The month of January saw the Blueshirts post an impressive 10-4-1 record and 21 points which exceeded their strong November record of 9-6-0 with 18 points to become the team's most successful month so far this season. Taking things back even a bit further, the Rangers are 14-5-1 in their last 20 games dating to Dec. 22.
Given that recent success the Rangers would hate to arrive at the Olympic break on a down note, so the games this week — Tuesday at home against Colorado, Thursday at home against Edmonton, and Friday in Pittsburgh — are extremely important to the Rangers, who currently sit in second place in the tight Metropolitan Division.
"We are refreshed from the days off and have a really important stretch of three games in four nights coming up," noted center Derick Brassard, who is in the midst of a three-game point-scoring streak. "We can't look ahead too much to the break, not even the guys going to the Olympics can do that, We have to take care of business here first."
After beating the Islanders 4-1 at The Garden last Friday, the Rangers practiced Saturday, were off on Sunday, and were back to work on Monday morning. Monday's practice was fast-paced and full of battle drills with two not-so-familiar opponents waiting on the horizon and another extremely familiar foe lurking right before the break.
"We have to make sure that we are all focused in on the three games in four nights, the three games before the Olympic Break," stated Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. "We have to make sure we continue to play the good hockey we have been. I am expecting our veteran guys and core guys to make sure everybody understands what we need to do here."
NO CHANGES IN THE LINEUP
Vigneault said that he plans to use the same lineup Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche, meaning Henrik Lundqvist will make his fifth straight start in goal, and 12th in the last 14 games. However Cam Talbot quite possibly will play later in the week when the Rangers play back-to-back against Edmonton and Pittsburgh.
"There is a chance that (Talbot) might play," Vigneault said, referring to the back-to-backs.
The head coach added that he expects Lundqvist to play a lot for Sweden in Sochi during the Olympics and that he will likely rejoin the Rangers late in the month of February, meaning Talbot will most likely be seeing some playing time for the Blueshirts coming out of the break.
"Cam's going to get some work here coming back from the Olympics (break)," Vigneault stated.