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January A Crucial Month for Blueshirts

Alex Silverberg
January 4th, 2011

After opening the new year with two straight losses on Florida ice the New York Rangers have their work cut out for them for the rest of January. Following Wednesday's match-up with the ninth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes, the Rangers play six straight games against above .500 opponents before welcoming the struggling Maple Leafs to the Garden on January 19th.

In this stretch the Blueshirts will play the Stars, Blues, Canadiens (twice), Canucks and Flyers, all playoff-contending teams. For the team to do well they have to show that this past weekend was merely an aberration and go back to playing the hard working, opportunistic game that made them so successful to start the season.

Although the Rangers did run into some ridiculously hot goaltending to start the new year the fact remains that they did not execute their gameplan. The endless cycling was futile and no one was in front of the net to catch the passes of skilled players like Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan. On the defensive side, the team played a lazy game in pinching in at the wrong times and for too long. The forecheck also seemed very weak but that was bound to happen at some point with hit machine and team leader Ryan Callahan out. All this needs to be corrected in order for the Rangers to rack up the wins this month. Besides the forecheck game, which will need the grinding work of Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedetenko to be sustained, the major concerns from the weekend can be corrected with a good, hard practice and the confidence that the Rangers have played with for most of 40 games.

Last January, the Rangers posted a 6-7-3 record, taking only 15 points. This losing record pretty much guaranteed that the team would have to fight to the last day of the season for a playoff spot. It did and we all know what happened from there. This year's team, however, seems to be a different animal than last year and hopefully they can distance themselves from such failure.

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