Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Caps a Test for Ranger 'D'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Caps a Test for Ranger 'D'

Article excerpt

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - What is to become of the Rangers' so-far inconsistent season is still very much in question a little more than seven weeks from the NHL trade deadline and at the halfway point after today's matinee against the NHL-leading Capitals at Madison Square Garden.

"It's hard to watch when we're playing poorly and for a long period of time, especially," general manager Jeff Gorton said on a conference call Friday. "I have faith in this team. The core has done a good job and it's still intact."

Gorton made a minor move on Friday, shipping seldom-used forward Emerson Etem, 23, to the Canucks for former first-rounder Nicklas Jensen, 22, who was assigned to Hartford (AHL) and a sixth-round selection in 2017.

But Gorton may need to try to make much more significant moves before the Feb. 29 deadline if the Rangers (22-14-4), in third place in the Metropolitan Division and just 6-11-2 since Nov. 25, cannot start winning consistently.

"You've got to learn from it," said left wing Rick Nash, who has 12 goals and 17 assists after setting a career high with 42 goals last season. "To have adversity, to learn how to lose before you can really appreciate winning and if that stretch doesn't do it for us, then I don't know what would."

Which is why today's game could be a pivotal moment for the Rangers, who beat the visiting Stars, 6-2, on Tuesday when Dallas came into the Garden atop the NHL standings.

There is a belief that the defensive structure that's been so lacking for most of the season has returned through a 5-2 win at Tampa Bay, a 3-0 loss at Florida and then the win over the Stars.

"That's a huge, huge game," Nash said. "It's going to be a great test for us to work on our defensive game."

In coach Alain Vigneault's first two seasons, the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 and were eliminated in a seven-game Eastern Conference final last season. But the way they finished made it easy to forget those rocky starts.

The Rangers were 23-14-4 at last season's midpoint after an 11- 10-4 start and went on to win the Presidents' Trophy for the most points in the NHL. …

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