Surging Blue Jackets look to silence struggling Rangers
The New York Rangers have had enough trouble finding any offense this season. Now they’ll have to try and get things going without their captain.
The Rangers look to snap a four-game home skid when they begin an extended stretch without right wing Ryan Callahan against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
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, dropping them to 2 for 12 over 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.
In 24 games, 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 games – 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, who are 0-2-1 on a team-record nine-game homestand, are already without top defenseman Marc Staal after he suffered a concussion in a 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey on Saturday.
“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.
If not for the solid goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 22 shots against the Predators, and Cam Talbott, New York would be in a far worse position in the standings.
Lundqvist, however, is in the midst of his worst stretch of the season. He’s been in net for all three games on the homestand and allowed 11 goals on 85 shots.
“The only thing I know right now is it can only go up,” the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner said. “It’s extremely tough mentally, and you try to be positive. You have to.”
Talbot, who has posted a .934 save percentage and 1.79 goal-against average in going 6-2-0, may get the nod against the Blue Jackets with Lundqvist struggling.
Columbus (13-15-3) has continued its surge following a rough start, winning its third in four games with a 5-4 home victory over the Devils on Tuesday.
The Jackets, who lost 10 of their first 15 games, 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,” said Columbus coach Todd Richards. “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, including a 4-2 home loss on Nov. 7.