Blueshirts Face Kings as They Go Back to Cali

The Rangers are in Los Angeles tonight to take on the Kings in the second meeting between the two teams this season.

[Watch Rangers-Kings on MSG & MSG GO]

In mid-December at MSG, Rick Nash’s brilliant individual effort produced the game-winner as the Rangers prevailed 4-2. The Kings are without a victory in their last six starts, and the Rangers have just two wins in their last six. As a result, Los Angeles is on the outside looking in on the playoff picture in the Western Conference, while the Blueshirts are hanging precariously to the final postseason spot in the East.

Alain Vigneault holds his post-game press conference after the Rangers' 3-1 loss to the Avalanche.

The Rangers, with an injury-illness depleted lineup, lost to Colorado yesterday afternoon, 3-1. Falling behind 2-0 in the second period, the Ranger power play cut the deficit to just one. Despite a hard-working third period in both ends of the ice, the Blueshirts would get no closer and an empty-net goal in the dying seconds sealed the win for the Avalanche.

Much was made post-game of not rolling over after falling behind and there certainly was something to that. In reality, the work ethic had to stay high and the spectacular play of Henrik Lundqvist was absolutely necessary to keep this one within striking distance. At the end of the day, the lineup wasn’t deep enough to steal one on the road against one of the league’s hottest teams.

Despite the result, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller and Henrik Lundqvist were happy with the Rangers' effort after the 3-1 loss to the Avs.

Michael Grabner who missed yesterday’s game due to illness is expected back in the lineup tonight. Both Marc Staal and Kevin Hayes skated this morning but will not play. The team will have a full practice tomorrow and both are expected to participate. If all goes as hoped for Staal and Hayes, a couple of important pieces will suit up on Tuesday against Anaheim. Injuries inflict every lineup in the National Hockey league. The issue from a Ranger standpoint is that this Blueshirt roster needs all hands on deck to have a legitimate playoff chance. The only game breaker is Lundqvist and when injuries get five-deep into this roster, it is going to be a struggle.

At the end of the day if you have better horses, and those horses are healthier, you are going to have a better chance.

KEYS

1. Taking a Hit
The Kings won a couple of Stanley Cups by playing a very straightforward, physical game coached by a straightforward physical guy, Darryl Sutter. While Sutter was let go last summer, there is still a ton of Sutter style left in this King roster. Taking a hit to make a play will be imperative.

2. Minimize Mistakes
Both teams are struggling to score. The ice gets a little smaller when teams know they have to play it pretty close to the vest. As a result, in a tight affair, a small mistake can have a large consequence.

3. Goaltending
Regardless of whether it is Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick or their very capable backups who suit up tonight, another aspect of a low scoring game is the importance of making that key save.

[Watch Rangers-Kings on MSG & MSG GO]

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.