A look at the standings shows the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes aren't in the same class.
The Rangers are near the top of the Eastern Conference and are far and away the highest-scoring team in the league while the Hurricanes are barely above .500 and outside the playoff picture. But as of right now, Carolina might be the team playing better hockey.
When the teams meet in New York on Tuesday — Carolina won the first meeting 3-2 at home on Oct. 28 — the Hurricanes will be the team pointed upward. They won six of eight and did not allow their opponents to score more than two goals in a game over that stretch.
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The Rangers dropped four of six and lost four straight at Madison Square Garden, the site of Tuesday night's game.
New York may be ripe for the picking, as it is coming off a 2-0 home loss to the Senators, which marked the first time it was shut out this season.
“Yeah, we had one game where we didn't find the back of the net and didn't generate as perfectly as we had, but when a team plays as good as (Ottawa) did defensively, you have to execute perfectly,” Rangers center Derek Stepan told the New York Daily News. “Otherwise you're gonna do what we did and kind of just chase the puck and not really get much done.”
New York totaled four goals in the past three games, something that was inevitable after averaging more than four goals for most of the season.
“We are a team that likes to create on the rush and (Ottawa) didn't give us many opportunities to do that,” Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said to the New York Daily News. “They didn't turn pucks over. They made sure they got pucks in deep. They made us go the full length of the ice for the majority of the game and they had numbers back.
“But in the end, we have to find a way — some in-zone plays, running our cycles, getting pucks up top, and getting shots down at the net. There are other ways to create offense and that was a test for us (Sunday) that we didn't accomplish.”
If the Rangers didn't pass the Senators' test, that could mean trouble against the Hurricanes.
Only two teams cracked 30 shots against Carolina over the past nine games. The Hurricanes are allowing an average of 27.6 shots, the fifth-best mark in the NHL. But when they take the ice Tuesday, they'll have to do so without one of their better forwards.
Center Jordan Staal was placed on injured reserve Monday with a concussion suffered in the team's 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday. Staal owns five goals and nine points in 21 games.
Even when Carolina dropped two in a row before beating Florida, coach Bill Peters felt his team was playing well but just not scoring enough. His team failed to reach three goals in those losses but found a third goal against the Panthers.
If they can find a third goal against the Rangers, that should be enough given the current state of each team.
“The game is fair. It will all even out in the end. That's why you play 82 times, right?” Peters said to The News & Observer. “If we take these efforts and keep going, it will be fine in the end.
“So, what do you have to do? You have to persevere, you have to be honest about what's going on and there's a reason you're not scoring, and you have to figure that out.”