Florida Panthers (20-12-7) vs. New York Rangers (24-9-4)
Madison Square Garden. New York, New York.
Winter what? Its game 37 ladies and gents!
The fall of 2011 was good my friend but now the cold New York winter of 2012 is settling upon the roof of Madison Square Garden. Do you think the Florida Panthers care about all that hoopla in Philly a couple of days ago? Certainly not and I’m sure the Rangers are well aware of that themselves.
You would expect Coach John Tortorella to have his “top of the league” team ready for a tough conference rival tonight after a few days away from the national spectacle and the HBO cameras. The Rangers are riding a 2 game win streak ( winners of 7 of their last 8 ) and will look to continue their impressive play at home where they are 11-3-2. Torts has been masterful so far at keeping his team grounded and sticking to a consistent game plan so far this season. The ongoing challenge for his players now is to continue to do so for another 45 games.
The Panthers recently took care of the Canadiens at home 3-2. They are 5th overall in the league though having lost 7 of their last 11 and sit atop of the Southeast Division with Washington and Winnipeg breathing down their necks. Both their divisional rivals have been playing good hockey of late and the Cats need to stay on a winning pace. Taking 2 pts from the Rangers tonight will help their cause. They visit the much improved Devils Friday before they head back home for three straight against some of the NHL elite when the Canucks, Penguins and Bruins head down to Sunrise. Happy New Year!
The last time these two teams met the Rangers came out on top of a chippy game with a 4-1 win. I’d expect a lot of the same tonight. Lundqvist and Clemmensen will handle net duties respectfully. Marc Staal plays in game two of his comeback and the Rangers will look to slow down Tomas Fleischmann who scored two of the Panthers 3 goals on Saturday.
The Rangers should receive an incredibly warm welcome from the faithful tonight after doing their fans proud on NBC on Monday in winning the Winter Classic against the Flyers. It will be interesting to see how they come out tonight. Hopefully there is no “HBO Hangover!”
Paul C. Cuthbert
Hockey This Week
Follow Paul on Twitter @PCuthbert_HTW