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Rangers look to regain footing against Blues

Mar 2, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider (20) shoots the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Since tying a team record with 10 straight wins, the New York Rangers have dropped three of four games, and the race for control of the Metropolitan Division has tightened.

The Rangers hope to get a spark from the acquisition of Alex Wennberg and avoid a third straight loss when they host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night .

After a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia on Feb. 24, the Rangers held an eight-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes, whom they visit Tuesday. Since then they are 1-2-1 in their past four games, with the past two losses coming against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers. Florida leads the NHL with 90 points and is six ahead of the Rangers with two fewer games remaining.

The Rangers have been idle since Monday’s 4-2 loss to the Panthers gave them a losing streak for the fifth time this season. Rookie Will Cuylle and Chris Kreider scored power-play goals, and it marked the ninth time this season the Rangers scored multiple power-play goals but the first time in any of those games they did not score at even strength.

Two days after the loss to Florida, the Rangers acquired Wennberg from the Seattle Kraken and then deployed him on the third line with Cuylle and Jimmy Vesey in his first two practices, while also putting him on the second power-play unit in Friday’s practice.

Wennberg scored nine goals and totaled 25 points in 60 games this season for the Kraken, who also used him on penalty killing and as a defensive forward. Last season, the 29-year-old finished with 13 goals and 38 points in 82 games.

“A great two-way (forward) and loyal to the team,” New York’s Mika Zibanejad said at practice. “A smart player, a great passer. He’s had success in the league, obviously, so we’ve got a great player coming in who will add a lot to our team.”

“It’s really important to have a player or a line like that, that can be put together and do a specific job,” New York coach Peter Laviolette said at practice. “The fact that (Wennberg) has been used in that role and succeeded in it, I think that’s a plus for us, as well.”

The Rangers will unveil Wennberg against an opponent trying to keep pace in the Western Conference’s wild-card chase. The Blues are six points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the final wild-card spot and are competing with the Calgary Flames, Kraken and Minnesota Wild.

St. Louis is 6-8-1 in its past 15 games since winning five straight Jan. 20-28, and six of those defeats are by two goals or fewer. On Thursday, the Blues never led and were dealt a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils to drop to 1-5-1 in their past seven road games.

Brandon Saad scored the lone goal and the Blues were held under 30 shots on goal for the fourth straight game and seventh in nine contests. St. Louis also had 17 shots get blocked after getting 21 shots on goal in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders.

“It’s frustrating,” said St. Louis forward Robert Thomas, who has three goals since the All-Star break. “We’re getting lots of chances, but it’s not good enough. We got to find a way to get going.”

–Field Level Media

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