Pre-Thanksgiving Print Notebook

By MIKE ASHMORE
For The Trentonian

NEW YORK – Will the real New York Rangers please stand up?

The defending Eastern Conference champions are 20 games through their 2014-15 season, and remain as perplexing as ever.

Their longest winning streak is three. Earlier this month, head-scratching back-to-back losses against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers were followed by a dominant 5-0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Over their last three games, a virtual no-show of a performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning was erased by consecutive shutouts against the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens.

“We talked about cleaning up our game,” veteran defenseman Dan Boyle told The Trentonian.

“We talked about being stronger defensively and making plays offensively. Being a little more puck-hungry, so to speak. We did that (against Philly) and our power play and penalty kill won us that game.”

The frustration in the Rangers locker room, particularly after the Edmonton game in which the room remained closed for a longer-than-usual time period, had become evident. But they managed to turn that frustration into two points. After a similar letdown against Tampa Bay, a similar pattern followed.

“It was pretty easy to play pissed off, because we played so poorly last game,” Boyle said. “It was important for us to come out strong, but now it’s important for us to back it up. Unfortunately for us this year, there’s been too many good games followed by not so good games.”

The Rangers have an opportunity to tie their longest winning streak of the year when they head to Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

***

Cam Talbot earned a much-needed shutout victory in the Rangers win over the Flyers on Wednesday night, making head coach Alain Vigneault’s choice to start him in the nationally televised contest play dividends.

Starter Henrik Lundqvist has played no fewer than 62 games in non-lockout shortened seasons since 2006-07, so his second-year backup, who had struggled earlier in the season, needed this game to re-establish himself as a viable option between the pipes so as not to burn out their number one.

“It’s huge,” center Derek Stepan told The Trentonian. “He’s a big part of our team, and he’s going to be moving forward.”

Added Rick Nash: “He’s a guy that had a great year last year, and it seems like he’s back on track. This was an impressive game.”

***

After a win in their home opener against Cornell on November 7, the Princeton University men’s hockey team has struggled, getting outscored by a combined 21-3 in five straight losses to put them in 11th place in the 12-team ECAC’s standings.

For the women’s team, however, it had been a different story entering last weekend’s game against St. Lawrence and No. 5 Clarkson. The team had rattled off seven straight games without a defeat after their season-opening loss at Penn State, but suffered a setback with a 7-3 loss to the Saints and 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Golden Knights.

“Both teams that we played had contrasting styles,” said head coach Jeff Kampersal. “St. Lawrence is kind of helter-skelter – they’re well-coached – but they’re a high-risk, high-reward team. It’s hard to prepare for them and for a team like Clarkson, who’s kind of meat and potatoes, hard working, strong and tough.

“(Friday), I thought we played well and the score didn’t indicate how the game went…(Saturday), I thought we played well, but took too many penalties. We did a good job of killing them off, but couldn’t figure out how to defend for the 30 seconds after the penalty.”

Things don’t get any easier for the Tigers, either. No. 4 ranked Quinnipiac was slated to play at historic Hobey Baker Rink on Tuesday night, and Princeton will host No. 2 Minnesota for two games on Saturday and Sunday.

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