Rangers Need All Hands on Deck in Winnipeg

The Rangers take on the Jets in icy Winnipeg this afternoon looking to win consecutive games for the first time since mid-January when they defeated Buffalo and Philadelphia in back-to-back starts.

The task will require an all hands on deck approach as Winnipeg sports one of the league’s best home records at 20-4-2 winning at a .808% clip. The Bell MTS Place, home to the Jets, originally constructed to house an AHL franchise, is an intimate building where the crowd is basically situated on top of the playing surface. Off the ice, the return of the NHL to Winnipeg was a success from the get-go. The city now has an on-ice product to match and this version of the Jets is one of the best in the league.

[Watch Rangers-Jets Today on MSG+ & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

The Rangers are coming off an exciting, entertaining victory at The Garden beating Calgary 4-3. The lineup was further compromised due to injury as captain Ryan McDonagh was unable to play and will be out of the lineup indefinitely due to an upper body issue. Throw into the mix, the clearing of waivers and subsequent demotion to the minors of Brendan Smith and the lineup would be without seven guys who were on the opening night roster.

The victory came a day after management declared that changes were coming in the belief that issues of youth, speed and skill needed to be and will be addressed. Who knew that with the recall of defensemen Neil Pionk and John Gilmore we would get a quick glimpse of how the game looks when it’s played in the defensive zone with speed, skill and more importantly, precision.

Partnered up, both moved the puck smartly in a tape-to-tape manner that limited extended time spent in their own end. While it is much, much too early to declare Pionk and/or Gilmore the answer moving forward, it sure was an encouraging first look.

Henrik Lundqvist came off the bench after the first period against the Flames as Ondrej Pavelec was unable to continue due to a knee injury. Lundqvist, who has a specific gameday prep process, jumped into the fast lane and was terrific over the course of the final two periods. Most players have their specific ways of preparing and being creatures of habit that any kink in the routine can throw things a little out of whack. After the game, Hank admitted to as much but being able to adapt is just as crucial and adapt, the Blueshirts most important player did.

3 KEYS

1. Miller-Hayes-Grabner

Against the Flames the J.T. MillerKevin HayesMichael Grabner line combined for five points and played like a unit that wanted to make a difference. This was an effective threesome a year ago and the task becomes a little more attainable with their productive play.

[6 Facts to Know: Rangers at Jets]

2. Home Crowd

The MTS Place is a loud, intimate building for a visiting team. Keeping the home crowd out of things as long as possible needs to be a priority this afternoon.

3. Manage the Gap

The Jets play with a ton of speed and it will necessitate the Ranger defenseman getting up ice when the puck moves in that direction. That will give them a better chance of managing the neutral zone against a team that will feast on room in the neutral zone.

[Watch Rangers-Jets Today on MSG+ & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]