Rangers look to deny Muller his first coaching win
RANGERS (13-5-3) at HURRICANES (8-14-4)
TV: MSG, FS-CR (HD)
New York 8-2-0; Carolina 3-6-1
This is the second of four regular-season meetings between these clubs. The Rangers dominated with a 5-1 win at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 11.
The Rangers have won three straight and all against teams considered to be among the elite of the Eastern Conference. New York will continue to keep its hot streak going against a Hurricanes team that will be searching for their first win under new head coach Kirk Muller.
With wins in 10 of its last 12 games, New York has embedded itself into the conversation revolving around the best team in the East. An exciting 4-3 win at home Tuesday against Sidney Crosby and the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins was preceded by convincing victories over Philadelphia and Washington.
While many would expect the Rangers to be satisfied with their current strong play, the tone following Wednesday's practice was more urgent than it was laid back.
"We have to keep the killer instinct going and go, go, go and go hard because every point counts," forward John Mitchell told Blueshirts United. "It doesn't matter what team we play, we have to make sure to bring it every night."
Muller has a lot to do before the Hurricanes can be considered a legitimate contender and Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers gave him a good look at which issues he'll need to address first.
Carolina continued to struggle on the power play, going scoreless on five chances with the man advantage. The Canes are currently last in the Eastern Conference with just an 11.7 percent success rate on the power play.
"We'll have to work on it," Muller told carolinahurricanes.com regarding the lackluster power-play units. "The tough thing (Tuesday night) is that 5-on-5 we were going so well, but the power play didn't create any momentum for us."
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist was in net for all three of the Rangers' consecutive wins and has just one loss in his last nine games. … Hurricanes captain Eric Staal
has two points (1g, 1a) over his last two games.
Carolina defenseman Jay Harrison
remains questionable for Thursday's game with an upper-body injury.
The Rangers are defying the laws of statistics a bit, as they are last in the Eastern Conference with an average of just 26 shots per game, but are a respectable eighth in the conference with an average of 2.81 goals.
While the strength on five-on-five situations has been there for Carolina, its players realize that the power play needs improvement in order for the Canes to start winning some close games.
"We want to get better," Staal told reporters following Tuesday's loss. "When you get those power plays, you want to make them pay and we didn't. We'll get back to work at it and hopefully get that on the up and up."