Blue Jackets-Rangers Preview
The New York Rangers have had enough trouble generating offense this season. Now they'll have to try to do so without their captain.
The Rangers look to snap a four-game home skid when they begin an extended stretch without Ryan Callahan against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
This game will also be New York forward Rick Nash's first against Columbus, the team that drafted him first overall in 2002.
New York hasn't been able to break through in its last two games, losing 4-1 at home to both Washington and Nashville.
The Rangers (15-16-1), near the bottom of the league with 70 goals, were 0 for 2 on the power play in each defeat, leaving them at 2 for 12 in their last five games.
Making matters worse, Callahan will be sidelined four to six weeks because of a sprained left knee he sustained in Tuesday's loss to the Predators.
Callahan is second on the team with seven goals and has six assists. He sat out the season opener following shoulder surgery and missed seven games between Oct. 19 and Nov. 2 with a broken thumb. New York lost three of those contests - two via shutout.
"Everyone has to step up a little more," defenseman Dan Girardi said. "He brings a lot to the team, a lot of different characteristics."
The Rangers, 0-2-1 on a team-record nine-game homestand, are also without top defenseman Marc Staal after he suffered a concussion in a 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey on Saturday. The Rangers have recalled bruising defenseman Dylan McIlrath from Hartford of the AHL, and he could make his NHL debut in this contest.
"What I need are some of the other guys, who for quite some time probably have been hoping for a bigger role and a bigger opportunity - well, here it is, grab it," coach Alain Vigneault told the team's official website.
Nash was brought to New York to be the centerpiece of the team's offense, as the Rangers acquired him from the Blue Jackets in a five-player deal in July 2012. The results have been mixed so far, as the big forward hasn't delivered the consistent production he did for nine seasons in Columbus, where he recorded 30 or more goals seven times.
Nash, who scored his sixth goal of the season Tuesday, was out with a head injury in the teams' first meeting since the trade, a 4-2 Rangers road win Nov. 7.
Columbus (13-15-3) has continued its surge following a rough start, winning for the third time in four games with a 5-4 home victory over the Devils on Tuesday.
The Blue Jackets, who lost 10 of their first 15, caught a break as Nick Foligno got the winning goal with 91 seconds left when Ryan Johansen's shot went in off his skate.
New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur said the puck might have been kicked.
"We've been on the other side of some of these," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "Sometimes these games even themselves out and tonight we won a game when the hockey gods helped us out a little bit."
Curtis McElhinney, filling in with Sergei Bobrovsky sidelined at least four weeks with a strained groin, allowed a season high in goals but won for the second time in three starts since Bobrovsky went down.
The Blue Jackets have dropped four of their last five against the Rangers.
Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, career Rangers until they were make key pieces of the Nash trade, will be making their returns to Madison Square Garden. Dubinsky is coming off a career-high four-point outing Tuesday.
Despite allowing 11 goals in his last three starts, Henrik Lundqvist will start Thursday for New York.