Thursday, March 26, 2009
Rangers (39-27-8) @ Atlanta (30-38-6)
Anything less than two points in Atlanta tonight will be a big disappointment. With eight games left on the schedule, this is by far the easiest opponent that the Rangers have left to play, after tonight the rest of their opponents are all teams from the Eastern Conference, currently heading for the playoffs.
On Tuesday night the Rangers had to deal with Marian Gaborik, who is an elite forward in the NHL. Tonight they face Ilya Kovalchuk, who is every bit as dangerous. Kovalchuk is closing in on another 40 goal season (38) and he also leads the team in points with 82. Kovalchuk is by far the Thrashers most dangerous weapon. But, if you remember the playoff series between the Rangers and Thrashers from two seasons ago, you'll remember little Avery/Kovalchuk battle where Kovalchuk completly lost his composure and went after Avery. Hopefully, knowing the Thrashers can't make the playoffs, Kovalchuk is once again more worried about Sean Avery than he is about scoring.
According to Ranger Rants, Markus Naslund who missed yesterday's practice (one can only assume that it was related to the big hit he was on the receiving end of by Gaborik the night before) will play tonight. Lines should be the same as the ones that were on the ice on Tuesday against the Wild.
Update (12:45): I anticipated Lundqvist being back in goal tonight, he's 5-2-5 against Atlanta in his career with a 2.06 GAA and a .920 save percentage. But, Steve Valiquette will get the start, giving Hank the night off. [Link] In his last outing Valiquette played very well in a 3-0 defeat to the Hurricanes, unfortunately he didn't get much help from the rest of the team in that game. Given the opponent, Tortorella probably felt (as do I) that looking ahead at the rest of the schedule, this is the best game to give Lundqvist the night off.
Some other links:
A look at Ryan Callahan, who has been one of the most consistent Rangers all season and has even stepped it up a few notches since John Tortorella took over as head coach. [Link]
A breakdown of the Rangers remaining schedule over at Blueshirt Banter. [Link]
Tuesday night the Thrashers were officially eliminated from playoff contention, this Thrashers' blog analyzes another post-season in Hotlanta with no action. [Link]
Plus, for any Ranger fans living in the Atlanta area, this blog has a trivia question posted on their site related to the playoff meeting in 2006-07 between the Rangers and Thrashers. Chances to win free tickets to tonight's game! [Link]
A look at the NHL Scoring Leaders - doesn't look like anyone is catching Malkin. [Link]
Many tickets are still available for the Rangers remaining home games (plenty below face value) at TickCo, RazorGator, StubHub and TicketsNow.
In fact, StubHub.com already has Rangers home playoff games listed on their site. I've bought tickets in the past off of Stubhub prior to the regular season ending knowing that it's almost impossible to get tickets through the Rangers unless you are a season ticket holder and also that ticket prices usually are cheaper now, before the actual playoff matchups are determined and the games are sold out. If the games aren't played you can always get your money back.