2007-02-23 / Sports

To Make the Playoffs, Rangers Need to be Home Warriors

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Twelve wins. That's all the Rangers have all season at home and if they are going to make the playoffs, that number has to improve.

So far the Blueshirts have been a better road team with 1 17-13-2 record as opposed to the 12-13-3 mark at home. Now with eight of the next 10 games - with one of the road games on Long Island - at Madison Square Garden, that number has to improve.

"It's weird how well we play on the road, and then we come to the Garden and things don't happen for us," center Blair Betts said to Sam Weinman of the Journal News.

"We need to get on a roll there. If we don't start winning at home, we're not going to make the playoffs. That's the biggest thing. A lot of times we've left the ice and the fans have been less than satisfied with our effort. And obviously it's the same with us."

But why is it? Normally playing at home is a lot easier for a team than opposed to the road, but the Rangers have bucked the trend, which needs to change.

"I don't know why our record on the road is better than here," said Henrik Lundqvist. "You have to remember teams that come into New York want to play a good game. You don't see teams coming in here having bad games. That makes it tough on us."

Added Jaromir Jagr: ""I think it's just the luck. We don't play any different at home than on the road. We play the same game; maybe the other team plays more patient when they play on the road. They don't take many chances? I don't know."

Either way, wins are a necessity. After the 2-1 loss in New Jersey, Lundqvist figured the Rangers need to go 15-7 the rest of the season to make the playoffs. It's not going to be easy, since they are only a few games over .500 for the year.

But they can do it. With the additions of Sean Avery and Pascal Dupuis, the Blueshirts have become a more even team. Avery has come in a produced havoc, which is what he was acquired for and Dupuis has given the Rangers a solid third line with Matt Cullen and Jed Ortmeyer.

"Dupuis brings us unbelievable speed and he is probably our fastest skater," Cullen said. "He's not only fast, he gets to a lot of loose pucks for us, and not a lot of guys can do that in this league. He is also a goal scorer. He brings a lot to our team and he's a great player."

Plus, those players have given the Rangers the ability to run two power play units, which will be up to speed when Brendan Shanahan comes back from his concussion suffered Saturday against Philadelphia.

"It allows us to have a couple of looks," Cullen thought. "We have the unit with Jags, Marty [Straka], Mikey [Nylander] and they move the puck around and get going and our power play with Shanny there is more of a shooter's power play."

Plus there's Avery who has been super at creating a tough time for opposing net minders, including the normally unflappable Marty Brodeur.

"He's a great competitor," Brodeur said. "Love to have him on my team, that's for sure."

So, all the pieces are there. Now the Rangers need to mix it together at home.

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