W2W4: Rangers vs. Avalanche

At a glance: The New York Rangers conclude a four-game road swing with what will likely be their toughest test of the trip, facing the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center in Denver Thursday night.

While the Blueshirts have won seven of their last eight, the Avs are also rolling along on an impressive clip. Colorado has rattled off four straight wins to pull three points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division race.

Big loss: Though Ryan McDonagh’s injury is not believed to be serious, the Rangers’ top defenseman is not expected to play against the Avalanche. Coach Alain Vigneault told reporters Thursday that the 24-year-old is “day-to-day” after sustaining a hard hit from Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows in the final minute of the team’s 3-1 win in Vancouver Tuesday night. McDonagh’s absence will create a big void on their blue line, as he leads the team with an average of 24:49 in ice time per game. Luckily for the Rangers, defenseman John Moore is ready to return to the lineup Thursday after missing time with a concussion.

Sending a message: Interesting comments from Vigneault, by the way, on the recent assignment of J.T. Miller back to the American Hockey League. Vigneault told reporters that the 20-year-old needs to display more “commitment” or else he will be “a good minor-leaguer.” Ouch. Miller was sent back to Hartford Wednesday, one of his many trips bouncing between the big club and its minor-league affiliate this season.

Important injury: The Rangers aren’t the only team trying to withstand an significant injury loss Thursday night. The Avs are also without leading scorer Matt Duchene, who is expected to miss four weeks with a knee injury sustained this past weekend. Duchene has 23 goals and 70 points in 71 games for the Avalanche this season.

What now: Trade-deadline acquisition Martin St. Louis finally scored his first goal as a New York Ranger Tuesday night, notching his 30th goal of the season to snap a 14-game goalless drought with the Rangers. It will be interesting to see what sort of performance we see moving forward from St. Louis now that the crushing pressure has been lifted. As of right now, the Rangers are boasting a well-rounded scoring attack with balanced contributions all throughout their lineup. The team’s fourth line has been one of the most consistent, and effective, as of late.