After defeating the second-best team in the Western Conference and a top-six club in the East coming out of the All-Star break, the New York Rangers will aim to avoid a letdown Friday as they visit the slumping Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago totes a five-game losing streak and a mere 30 points, fewest in the NHL, into the matchup.
Maintaining a consistent attack has been a challenge for the Blackhawks, who remain without numerous contributors, led by rookie leading scorer Connor Bedard (fractured jaw).
Opponents have outscored Chicago 14-3 during the losing streak, the Blackhawks’ third five-game skid this season. The Blackhawks have tallied more than two goals just once over their past 11 games.
“We’re starving for goals,” the Blackhawks’ Nick Foligno said.
Foligno had Chicago’s lone goal in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild to open a five-game homestand. He also registered the team’s only shot on goal in the first period.
“I actually really liked our start,” Foligno said. “And then they score and it’s like we fall back into bad habits of just, ‘Now they’re coming,’ instead of just pushing back. And that’s what disappointed me in that first period. We started falling back and letting them attack, and we had no jam in our game at all.”
New York limited the visiting Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning to two goals in its first two games of the second half behind stellar play from backup goaltender Jonathan Quick, who stopped 49 of 51 shots faced.
Yes, Quick still is considered the Rangers’ backup, said coach Peter Laviolette, who assured after the Tampa Bay game that Igor Shesterkin still “is our guy.”
Quick has helped the Rangers to three straight wins bridging the All-Star Game as the Rangers aimed go give Shesterkin extra work and rest amid inconsistency.
“He’s the best in the world,” Quick said. “I learn so much from just watching him in practice. His work ethic and everything that he brings to the table every day – practice days, game days – it’s impressive.”
Jimmy Vesey scored a pair of goals against the Lightning and Jonny Brodzinski also scored.
Laviolette praised a defensive effort that saw New York block 22 shots compared with nine for Tampa Bay, something the team hopes to sustain moving forward.
“For me,” Laviolette said, “it’s about there’s an attitude that goes with defense, time and space. I thought we did a really good job (of) stick on puck in the defensive zone. They were trying to get off a shot, we got a stick in there. They were trying to make a play, we got a stick in there.
“Just trying to disrupt things a little bit.”
The Blackhawks are hoping to avoid a repeat of their Jan. 4 meeting with the host Rangers. Vincent Trocheck assisted on three New York goals in a 4-1 win that saw Artemi Panarin (Rangers) and Colin Blackwell (Blackhawks) both score against their former clubs.
The Rangers have won six of their past seven games against the Blackhawks.
–Field Level Media
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