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.”

Cam Atkinson had two goals and two assists, Brandon Dubinsky had

a goal and three assists and Matt Calvert also scored for

Columbus.

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.