In the midst of a three-game losing streak that was capped with a third-period collapse against the Blackhawks in Chicago, the Rangers started a seven-game homestand Sunday that has helped them get back on track. They have taken the first two games at Madison Square Garden, including a 4-2 victory Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The next game is perhaps the biggest one this season, with the hard-charging Pittsburgh Penguins coming to town Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). The Rangers hold a six-point lead on the Penguins, who have won nine straight, for the top spot in Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
"Seven games, every other day all the way down. The good thing is you don't have to travel. The schedule allows us to get a day off here and there, too. We can morning skate and not have to be on the road. Yeah, it's a good time for us to try to stay on top of our division, the conference. To be able to do it at home is an added bonus." --Martin Biron
It also can't hurt to take the stress of traveling out of the equation with captain Ryan Callahan (foot) and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (hip) battling injuries.
Seven games and two weeks at home, however, isn't always a blessing.
"To be honest, we don't usually like playing that many in a row at home because sometimes it'll get monotonous," said Brad Richards, who has four goals on the homestand. "But I think the way the schedule worked out with the amount of travel at the start of the year and the three games we lost, it's good to get home and get some rest and be in our own beds.
"We start off with two wins now and we want to just keep building on it."
The Rangers opened the season on what essentially was a month-long road trip because of renovations taking place on their home arena. After a preseason contest against the Flyers on Sept. 26, the Rangers flew to Europe and spent 12 days there playing European and NHL teams as part of the NHL Premiere Games.
After a week of rest, the Rangers played a game on Long Island before embarking on a four-game trip through Winnipeg and Western Canada. The Rangers didn't play their first home game until Oct. 27.
Richards said things can get stale with so many games in a row at home, but leading scorer Marian Gaborik doesn't mind it at all.
"It's nice to play at home for more than a couple games," Gaborik said. "We needed to get a win. We played well in Chicago and came up short. These couple wins were very important. We have to build on that. That's the way the schedule is right now, so we just have to take advantage of it."
The seven-game homestand is a rarity for the Rangers, who play in a building that is shared by the NBA's Knicks, college basketball's St. John's Red Storm and hosts everything from the circus to the Big East men's basketball tournament. This current homestand is tied for the longest in franchise history and is the first such stretch of home games since the 2001-02 season.
The Rangers are 24-7-2 at Madison Square Garden, the fifth-best home winning percentage in the League. Not only are the red-hot Penguins coming to town, a healthy Sidney Crosby is coming with them, so the timing of this homestand couldn't be better.
"It's nice to have that homestand," goaltender Martin Biron said. "It's a very unique one. Seven games, every other day all the way down. The good thing is you don't have to travel. The schedule allows us to get a day off here and there, too. We can morning skate and not have to be on the road. Yeah, it's a good time for us to try to stay on top of our division, the conference. To be able to do it at home is an added bonus."