Rangers Back on Winning Track?

The Rangers host the San Jose Sharks tonight as this six-game homestand hits game five.

The Blueshirts are coming off their second win of the season a 4-2 victory over Nashville. While the Rangers have been homesteaders, the Sharks suit up for their third of five consecutive on the road. Their last stop was Sunday night in Brooklyn where they fell 5-3 to Islanders.

[Watch Tonight’s Rangers-Sharks Game on MSG and Download Free on MSG GO]

The Rangers solid first period play against the Predators staked them to victory. Quick to the puck, with support and a willingness to get “dirty,” garnered a 2-0 lead. One of the goal scorers was Chris Kreider, who got his first of the season. Kreider is an important guy who could be a difference-maker. The Blueshirts will be a much deeper threat when Kreiders’ career advances beyond of the “could be” stage. Game-to-game consistency is the issue. And the sooner that consistency evolves, the better off Chris Kreider and his mates will be.

There is a good story from the opponent’s angle tonight is The Garden debut of Shark winger Kevin Labanc. Staten Island-born, Labanc grew up a big Rangers fan, spent his youth playing in various New Jersey youth programs and named Jaromir Jagr, Marian Gaborik and Petr Prucha as his favorite Rangers. He brings a skilled offensive game to The Garden and finds himself playing on the top line with two very talented Sharks, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. Though I can’t help but wonder if during warmups he will be tossing pucks to the higher seats like the other Staten Island guy to play in the NHL, my ex-teammate Nick Fotiu? I hope so!

3 KEYS TO RANGERS-SHARKS

1. Defending Heavy

The Sharks are one of the last West Conference teams that establish most of their offensive game down low in the offensive zone. Using their size to establish chances off the cycle, the Rangers can ill afford to be outmanned in the low areas of the defensive zone.

2. Speed from Precision

The Rangers, on balance, are the quicker team. They will be even quicker by moving the puck efficiently and with precision.

3. Emotion

The Sharks and Rangers don’t have much of a regular season history and zero history when it comes to postseason play. There just isn’t a lot of built-in stuff when it comes to Sharks-Rangers so the Blueshirts will need to dig a little deeper to find that emotional edge that is needed for victory.

[Watch Tonight’s Rangers-Isles Game on MSG and Download Free on MSG GO]

Can’t watch the game? Join Kenny Albert, Don La Greca and I tonight on ESPN 98.7 FM for all the action beginning with the pregame show at 6:30. Puck drops a little past 7. Check it out!

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.