With the Rangers playoff hopes taking a massive hit on Tuesday, the Blueshirts are back in action where they’ll begin a five-game homestand starting against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
|Rangers||East Division Ranks /8||Flyers|
The Rangers playoff push took a hit when they were defeated 6-1 by the New York Islanders on Tuesday. With the defeat, the Rangers now find themselves six points back of the final playoff spot. And if the result wasn’t enough of a hit – Jacob Trouba went down with what is officially being called an upper-body injury. Trouba is listed as day-to-day but is unlikely to be available on Thursday. With Trouba going down with an injury, there is a chance that 20-year-old Zac Jones may get the opportunity to make his NHL debut. Head coach David Quinn wanted Jones to get some practices under his belt prior to making his debut, but now his hand may be forced with one of his key defenders out of the lineup.
“We haven’t had a lot of practice, tough to gauge him in practice,” Quinn said. “But certainly, like what we’ve seen…When a guy gets an opportunity to play like Zac, sometimes we learn as we go. His track records are pretty good.”
Libor Hajek could also make his return to the lineup after being scratched for the past two games in favor of Anthony Bitetto. Hajek and Bitetto were a defensive pair in the middle of the season for a stretch of games and have some chemistry together. Brendan Smith, the Rangers lone goal scorer on Tuesday, would move up to play with K’Andre Miller.
The Blueshirts offense wasn’t very effective against the Islanders, but they’ll now get the chance to play the Flyers for the final two times this season. The Rangers offense has found success against the Flyers defense who now rank last in goals against per game in the East Division. In March, the Rangers put up 22 goals against the Flyers including nine and eight in separate games.
The Flyers defense hasn’t been good nor has their goaltending this season which would have shocked many if they were told that at the beginning of the season. Brian Elliott is expected to get the start for Philadelphia. Elliott was slated to be the backup for Carter Hart but Elliott has outplayed the 22-year-old despite having a save percentage of .892. Hart is also injured with a knee injury and is day-to-day.
The Rangers will turn right back to Igor Shesterkin was who left to dry in the last game. Without Shesterkin, the Blueshirts could have easily allowed ten or more goals. Shesterkin will look to get back on track in a favorable matchup.
With just ten games left in the season, this five-game homestand will be vital. The Rangers play Philadelphia and Buffalo two times each and conclude the homestand with a game against the Islanders. New York will need to win at least four of these games, but they could really do with winning all five. The Rangers are running out of games and these next four against non-playoff teams are all becoming must-win games.