Tonight, the Wild visit Broadway fresh off a 4-1 loss to the Islanders yesterday that featured yet another dumb hit by Trevor Gillies, who senselessly nailed Cal Clutterbuck from behind. A reckless player who doesn't belong in the NHL is answering some questions today in a meeting with the league. I doubt even he could shed some light on the matter.
Be that as it may, Minnesota had a costly loss which was their second straight. Still in a crowded Western race, the Wild enter with 72 points good for 11th, trailing seventh Dallas and eighth Los Angeles by two with the Ducks and Preds sandwiched between a point off. Calgary is sixth with 75 and Chicago plus Phoenix are both tied with 76. Columbus is hanging in with 69, making this one Wild race.
Can the surprising club from St. Paul recover from consecutive tough defeats against our slumping club that enters 2-4 in its last six, including three gut wrenching one-goal losses that have the Rangers hanging on by a thread with Carolina and Buffalo right on their heels? It should make for an intriguing match if the Garden actually cares about its hockey team when they're too busy rubbing our noses in it with Knick updates on the scoreboard. I like the Knicks but geez. Could Dolan be anymore of a jackass?
“We haven’t been good the last couple of games,” said Wild forward Kyle Brodziak. “We definitely need more desperation. We’re fighting for our playoff lives here. It’s frustrating. It was a must-win and we didn’t get the job done. It makes (Thursday) that much bigger. We’ve got to stop the slide now and do whatever it takes to turn it around.”
“It’s behind us now,” goaltender Niklas Backstrom pointed out after being chased by the Islanders following three goals on 19 shots. “We have to worry about tomorrow. I’ll try to be better tomorrow.”
Assuming he's back in because vet Jose Theodore has been superb in relief, it should be a tough game for a team that has no consistent offense. Especially when Brandon Dubinsky is stuck on 19 goals, disappearing for stretches during our slump. Ryan Callahan also hasn't found the back of the net lately with only one goal over the past half dozen. Sure. Cally always brings it but we need him to finish in front of the net.
More encouraging is that new acquisition Bryan McCabe looked good the other night, picking up his first point as a Ranger on an assist on Erik Christensen's power play tally. The big man got his shot off plenty, pacing the Blueshirts with six. The only issue is that it can't just be one guy taking all the shots. At least the power play resembled one, forcing Ryan Miller to come up with tough saves. Hopefully, that will continue tonight with more production.
Henrik Lundqvist gave up three-or-more for the 11th time in 15 games. But anyone who saw it knows he wasn't the problem. The poor starts have caught up, leaving Callahan baffled as to why they're not being more aggressive. When our team's right, they're an attacking club that gets in on the forecheck and generates off winning board battles. It's time to get back to that in your face style before it's too late.
With no margin for error, every game is huge. The Wild have two more points than us. So, it won't be easy. Marc Staal got through practice yesterday feeling better. Is he back for Martin Havlat and Brent Burns or do they wait until Ottawa tomorrow night? Regardless, they need their top defenseman back for this stretch run. Rook tandem Ryan McDonagh and Mike Sauer have been outstanding and Dan Girardi as well. They've gotten good mileage out of Steve Eminger. Matt Gilroy tries. But without the anchor, they'll be hard pressed to pull this off. Is Ruslan Fedotenko ready to return, solidifying Brian Boyle and banged up Brandon Prust who saw only eight minutes Tuesday? Every piece helps.
Artem Anisimov scored his 14th of the season, which pulled the Rangers within one against Buffalo. His first point in six. The lanky 22 year-old Russian stays put with Glen Sather unwilling to trade him or any of our prospects to Dallas along with a No.1 pick for Brad Richards. The right move considering it would've been only as a rental. Artie been up and down most of the season. His 14 goals are two better than his rookie year and the 18 assists also are a couple more than '09-10. Anisimov's taken 150 shots or 26 more already with still 17 games to go. His three power play goals and eight power play points are career bests. If he can put it together, it would go a long way to this team making the playoffs. He ranks fifth in team scoring, tied with Boyle.
They also need better from Mats Zuccarello, who remains stuck on three goals in 30 games. It's clear the Norwegian has talent with superb skating and playmaking capabilities. However, he must be more assertive like the other day when he came close to tying it with 6:00 left. The puck glanced off the post. So, he was a bit unlucky. MZA can be a difference maker. We'll see if he and the rest of the team can step it up starting tonight.