At a glance: The Rangers face one last test before the league-mandated five-day All-Star break begins Wednesday in hosting the struggling Winnipeg Jets at Madison Square Garden Tuesday. While the Rangers are coming off a spirited 3-2 overtime win over the Boston Bruins this past weekend, the Jets travel to New York after Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes.
Five straight: Although backup goaltender Martin Biron is 2-0 against Winnipeg this season, Henrik Lundqvist will make his fifth consecutive start. Biron will miss Tuesday’s match with the flu. The Rangers recalled netminder Chad Johnson from the AHL’s Connecticut Whale; Johnson will back up Lundqvist against the Jets.
A-OK: Banged up after Boston’s Andrew Ference’s suspension-worthy hit Saturday, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh will still play Tuesday. The 22-year-old said he got the wind knocked out of him after hurling into the end-boards – Ference is serving a three-game ban for the hit – but suffered no serious injury as a result. Good thing for the Rangers, who depend on McDonagh’s minutes each night. The second-year blue-liner averages 25:18 per game, only second behind his workhorse defensive partner Dan Girardi.
Stay on top: The 30-12-4 Rangers aim to stay atop the Eastern Conference standings with a win over the Jets. Heading into Tuesday’s action both the Rangers and Bruins are tied with 64 points. The Stanley Cup Champion Bruins, who were honored for last June’s achievement during their visit to the White House Monday, face the 8th place Capitals.
Last time around: 2-0 against Winnipeg this season, the Rangers shut out the Jets 3-0 in the teams’ last meeting. Marian Gaborik tallied twice and backup goaltender Martin Biron posted a 23-save shutout – his first shutout in over two years.
Shipping up to Ottawa: While their teammates enjoy some rest and relaxation, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, defenseman Dan Girardi and forward Marian Gaborik will represent the team at the league’s 2012 All-Star Game in Ottawa, Ontario this weekend. Lundqvist is the assistant captain for Team Alfredsson, led by Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson. Meanwhile, the Jets will be the only team NOT represented at the festivities. Although defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was selected, he will miss the game with a knee injury. The league chose Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang as his replacement.
Bottom line: Riding high off Saturday’s statement game, the Blueshirts have a chance to create some momentum heading into an almost week-long respite. One major advantage? The Rangers will face a tired Jets squad playing on back-to-back nights following Monday’s loss in Carolina.