There are five teams in the NHL’s Atlantic Division. One of them is the Rangers, and two of them are the Rangers’ natural rivals in New Jersey and on Long Island. But it’s the other two teams — Pittsburgh and Philadelphia — for which the Rangers have reserved their true bad blood this season. Philly, you’ll recall, woke the sleeping, moderately intimidating giant that are the Blueshirts when noted meanie Daniel Carcillo dropped the gloves with poor little Marian Gaborik last week. And back in late November, the Penguins drew the Rangers’ ire when Matt Cooke laid a dirty hit on Artem Anisimov, leading to a string of penalties, if not proper retribution.
Two nights later, the Rangers chose not to retaliate, and instead watched as Mike Rupp (filling in for the suspended Cooke on the third line) scored a hat trick. But Cooke should be in the lineup when the two teams meet tonight for the first time since — assuming the league office believes Cooke when he says he did not bite Philly’s Arron Asham over the weekend, as Asham has accused him of doing.
The Rangers, however, have bigger problems than beating up Matt Cooke or even avoiding getting bitten. They were shut out yet again on Saturday night in a particularly brutal 6–0 loss in Montreal. They’ve now been shut out four times in their last seven games, and have been shut out in consecutive games twice this month. It’s not rocket science: In the two games they’ve won in those seven, they averaged seven goals. In the five they lost, they averaged .2 goals. It’s very difficult to win a hockey game when you score .2 goals.