November 12, 2014

The struggling New York Rangers may be looking forward to a return to Madison Square Garden, where they own the best home record in the NHL.

Matt Duchene's torrid stretch for the Colorado Avalanche has mostly come on the road.

The Rangers will attempt to cool the red-hot Duchene on Thursday night and sweep the season series from the Avalanche.

New York (17-6-3) followed a 13-1-1 stretch by losing four of five games, and its only victory during the slump was a 4-3 home win over Carolina on Monday. The victory improved the Rangers to 11-3-1 with an average of 3.20 goals per game at MSG.

They'll try to continue that success after falling 2-1 in a shootout against the Islanders across the East River in Brooklyn on Wednesday. The Rangers came away encouraged despite losing in their first appearance at Barclays Center.

"Focus. I think it comes down to so much mentally in this game; when you're good, when you're not good. It comes down to making good decisions," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "When we're smart with the puck, when we time it and it all comes down to making that good read. Making that smart decision with the puck. Things just fall into place.

"Play a simple game, especially when you play a good team."

The Rangers should heed that advice when dealing with Duchene, who has 12 goals and eight assists over the past 14 games. The center has nine goals and six assists in 10 road games over that stretch.

After setting a franchise record with 11 goals in November, Duchene got December off to a strong start by scoring a goal in a 2-1 win at New Jersey on Tuesday.

"The big thing is to not think about it too much," said Duchene, who had one goal and two assists in his first 11 games. "I'm just focusing on speed, going hard to the net and shooting a lot of pucks. I felt like I maybe could have had another one (Monday). You have to stay hungry. That's the biggest thing."

Duchene has seven points in his last six meetings with the Rangers but just two goals, and he finished with no points in a 2-1 home loss to them Nov. 6.

Reto Berra made 31 saves in that matchup - his first against New York. He had 27 saves Tuesday but will likely return to the bench in favor of Semyon Varlamov, who is 5-7-1 with a 3.28 goals-against average.

"I love the fact Reto makes it a competition," coach Patrick Roy told the NHL's official website. "This is how we will get back in the playoff race; we need solid goaltending and we're aware of that. But we still have a lot of confidence in (Varlamov) and we're confident he'll bounce back as well."

Varlamov, though, is 4-3-0 with a 3.52 GAA in seven career games against the Rangers.

It's unclear if New York will turn to Lundqvist in the second of back-to-back games after he had 36 saves and turned aside two of three shootout attempts Wednesday. He is 8-2-1 with a 2.03 GAA in 11 home starts and made 29 stops at Colorado last month.

Backup Antti Raanta, who is 4-1-0 with a 1.36 GAA in six starts, has split two decisions over three career meetings with the Avalanche while compiling a 2.55 GAA.

You May Like