Ducks-Rangers Preview

BY foxsports • December 21, 2015

Strong defensive play and stingy goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist were keys to the New York Rangers winning the Presidents' Trophy last season.

That's reason enough for coach Alain Vigneault to believe there's a solution to their current slump.

While Lundqvist is likely to get a chance to shake out of his own funk, the Rangers attempt to avoid their longest slide in two years Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.

New York (19-12-4) was among the best defensive teams in the league last season, yielding 2.28 goals per game. The Rangers were even better through the first 21 games of 2015-16, averaging 1.76 goals against while going 16-3-2.

They're not even close to that during a 3-9-2 stretch, surrendering an average of 3.71 goals. New York has been outscored 17-7 while losing three straight and gave up the final six goals in Sunday's 7-3 loss to Washington.

The Rangers last dropped four straight from Dec. 7-12, 2013.

"I'm not sure it's as much mental as much as it is execution. It's probably a combination of both," Vigneault said. "There's no doubt in my mind that the answer is in that dressing room.

"I know that this group knows how to defend and can defend. They've proved it in the past. We're obviously not doing it at this point in time. We gotta regroup, stick with one another and get back at it on Tuesday."

Lundqvist is having his own problems, going 1-3-0 with a 4.86 goals-against average over his last five games. The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner has been pulled twice over that stretch, including Sunday when he gave up five goals on 24 shots through two periods.

"I have to look at my own game," Lundqvist said. "I have to be better. I know that."

Lundqvist and the Rangers had little trouble with the Ducks last season. Lundqvist made 24 saves in a 4-1 win at Anaheim on Jan. 7 before New York scored four unanswered goals to win 7-2 at home March 22.

Like New York, the Ducks (12-15-5) were among the NHL's best teams last season, finishing atop the Western Conference. However, they're at the bottom of the league this season and rank last with 1.84 goals per game.

"You feel like you're not going to score," captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "We have to be mentally stronger."

Anaheim lost for the fourth time in five road games Monday, falling 5-2 to the New York Islanders. The Ducks failed to score on their only power-play opportunity and are 0 for 14 over the last seven games.

The finale of this four-game trip includes Carl Hagelin's return to Madison Square Garden, where he spent the last four seasons with the Rangers before being traded to Anaheim over the summer.

Hagelin had 130 points in 266 games over that stretch, helping the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. He has just eight points in 32 games with the Ducks after scoring his third goal Monday.

Corey Perry is Anaheim's top scorer with 10 goals and 20 points. However, he's only managed one assist over the last four games. He has five goals and six points in six career visits to MSG, scoring twice in the March loss.

The Rangers' Mats Zuccarello had one goal and two assists against the Ducks last season. He leads New York with 14 goals and 28 points, but he has just one assist and is a minus-8 over the last three games.