The New York Rangers proved that their less-than-inspiring preseason was a portent of things to come, dropping five of six preseason games and losing 1-4 against the Phoenix Coyotes on the road to start the regular season. They will need a drastic turnaround if they want to get back in the playoffs -- not the easiest thing to do if the first nine games of the season will be played away from Madison Square Garden.
Ryan Callahan is expected to return from offseason shoulder surgery to boost the NY Rangers' sagging offense.
The Los Angeles Kings, too, want to bounce back after a loss against the Jets at Winnipeg. They want to prove that the loss was a fluke as they had a good record in the pre-season, including a 6-0 shutout against Anaheim and a masterful 4-1 victory over the Rangers in Las Vegas.
Many predicted that the Rangers would struggle against team captain Ryan Callahan, who went through surgery on his shoulder. Callahan was scheduled to return at the end of October, but it seems that the Rangers staff are already pushing the panic button. On Friday, Callahan was near his full strength in practice after being cleared to play. While he is not expected to make a significant impact immediately, the Rangers can sure use his physicality and persistence on the right wing.
"If it would have been up to him, he would have played (against Phoenix), said coach Alain Vigneault, who himself is taking flak for the less-than-stellar star to the season.
Center Brian Boyle is excited about the prospect of playing alongside Callahan. "He’s going to come out and try to run through a wall. He looks great. He’s been working his butt off.”
In contrast, the Kings have no shortage of firepower. They have scored a total of five goals in their first two games, with Jeff Carter accounting for two of them. History is also on the Kings' side in this matchup - Los Angeles has not lost to the Rangers at home since 2001.
We're going with history in this match-up. With a less-than-healthy Callahan and players still adjusting to the Vigneault system, the Rangers will pick up their second straight loss to start the season.
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