Streaking Rangers eager to spotlight new faces vs. Canucks

The red-hot New York Rangers kick off the Western Canada swing of their road trip with Wednesday’s clash against the struggling Vancouver Canucks with a particularly high level of excitement surrounding the team.

Along with riding a five-game winning streak, New York can use this trip as an opportunity to become more familiar with Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola, who were added to their roster last week.

“When you come to a new team, it takes a little bit to get to know everyone,” forward Mika Zibanejad said. “It obviously helps (to have pre-existing friendships on the team), especially in the short amount of time that they’re here right now. It helps a lot. You have someone you can talk to, as well as everyone else trying to help them out.”

New York last played on Saturday and claimed a convincing 6-2 road victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Tarasenko has provided an offensive infusion while Mikkola has helped solidify the defensive corps on a team riding a 12-2-2 run that has rocketed the Rangers up the standings to the third spot in the Metropolitan Division.

With the New Jersey Devils and division-leading Hurricanes in their sights, the excitement among the Rangers is palpable, although the key to maintaining their success is to remain focused on the task at hand.

“We’ve just got to continue to play our game well,” New York coach Gerard Gallant said. “There’s always tough teams, no matter who you’re playing. … Just continue to do what we’re doing. You can’t worry about what teams we’re playing. You just got to play your game. We’ve been on a good roll here and you got to keep working hard to keep winning.”

The Canucks are on the other side of the pendulum, with a 1-3-1 record in their last five games. Vancouver is coming off a dismal 6-1 home loss to the Detroit Red Wing on Monday, just two days after a 5-2 loss to the Red Wings in Detroit.

The losses, which leave the Canucks with only four victories in their last 16 outings (4-11-1), have coach Rick Tocchet spitting fire.

“We gave in. We just weren’t gritty enough. You know, wall work, the value of the little things — we’re going to have to keep stripping this down until we get it right,” Tocchet said. “It’s my job, the coaches, to make these guys understand. We’re going to have to go back to grade school on how to defend and how to stop and start because too many guys are spinning.”

Since Tocchet was named coach after Bruce Boudreau was fired, his team has posted a 3-4-1 record and has surrendered 35 goals.

Somehow Tocchet must find a way to rid his players of the bad habits amidst the frustrating season, which will mean plenty of teaching in practices.

“It’s like basically almost go through walk-throughs,” Tocchet said. “When the puck is here, you’ve got to be here. And then when it goes over there, you’ve got to be here. We have to really almost go to that. I’ve done it before (and) I’ve been with coaches that have done it before sometimes and I think it helps. It has to help this team.”

–Field Level Media