RANGERS (17-7-4) at BLUES (17-9-3)
TV: MSG, FS-MW (HD)
New York 7-2-1; St. Louis 7-2-1
This is the lone meeting of the season between these cross-conference clubs. The teams split a two-game series in 2010-11 with each earning a victory on the road. St. Louis has won four of its last five games against the Rangers.
Two of the hottest teams in the NHL are set to clash Thursday as the Blues will try to extend both their home and overall winning streak to four games, while the Rangers will attempt to make it five straight victories on the road.
New York pounds the pavement for a quick three-game trip that begins Thursday, which seems to be just what coach John Tortorella and company could use after dropping three of their last four games at Madison Square Garden. While the month of November yielded a perfect home record, December has been all about the road wins as the Blueshirts are 3-0-0 away from MSG this month and just 1-2-1 at the World's Most Famous Arena.
The Rangers will look for an improved effort after Tuesday's home loss to the Dallas Stars. While neither team could get much going offensively for over 55 minutes of game play, the Stars' Trevor Daley managed the game-winning tally by stuffing in a rebound through goalie Henrik Lundqvist
's five hole.
"We couldn't blink," Tortorella told reporters after the game. "You could tell it was going to be a game of who was going to blink first. We blinked, we lose the game."
The St. Louis fans might want to consider putting up a "In Hitch We Trust" sign outside of Scottrade Center, as new coach Ken Hitchcock has led the Blues to an 11-2-3 record since taking over for Davis Payne on Nov. 6. Thursday marks the end of a five-game homestand on which St. Louis is 3-1-0.
While the experienced leadership Hitchcock provides has been a big reason for the Blues' resurgence, the recent stellar play by goalie Brian Elliott
cannot be overlooked. Last Saturday's 1-0 win over San Jose put Elliott in a tie with the Kings' Jonathan Quick for the League-lead with four shutouts. As of Wednesday, the former University of Wisconsin Badger also leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.45) and save percentage (.947).
"He seems to always be our best player in the third period," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk
said of Elliott's 11 saves in the final frame on Saturday. "When we're up by a goal, he's always there to make a huge save."
Rangers' forward Marian Gaborik
has six goals in his last 10 games. … Elliott has won eight of his last nine games for the Blues and has allowed two goals or fewer in 13 of 14 starts this season.
The Rangers are missing blueliners Michael Sauer
and Marc Staal
, both out with concussions, as well as forwards Mike Rupp
(knee) and Wojtek Wolski
(sports hernia). … The Blues will be without center Andy McDonald
(concussion), defenseman Kent Huskins
(ankle) and right wing B.J. Crombeen
(shoulder). Winger Matt D'Agostini
left Saturday's game in the third period with an upper-body injury, but Hitchcock confirmed that there isn't any time expected to be missed.
The Rangers' offensively-potent Gaborik has 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 31 career games against St. Louis.
While most of the NHL has taken notice of Elliott's hot streak, the Blues goalie refuses to get caught up in the hype.
"I'm satisfied, but I'm not too high on myself," Elliott said after his most recent shutout. "Sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don't."