NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Rangers had Stanley Cup aspirations even before acquiring Rick Nash prior to the lockout.
Despite their star power, they’ve yet to prove they’re capable of living up to the lofty expectations.
New York looks to get on track Saturday night by avoiding a third straight home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have earned both of their victories on the road.
The Rangers finished with an Eastern Conference-best 109 points in 2011-12 before falling in six games to New Jersey in the conference finals. They traded Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, defensive prospect Tim Erixon and a 2013 first-round draft pick to Columbus for Nash in July, adding another marquee player to join fellow top-liners Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards.
New York (1-3-0) is off to a poor start, though, and fell to previously winless Philadelphia 2-1 on Thursday. All three of Gaborik’s goals came in Wednesday’s win over Boston, and he notched his first assist versus the Flyers.
Richards and Nash went without a point for the first time this season.
“We’re not getting enough good plays from our top guys,” coach John Tortorella said. “From some guys, yeah, we’re getting a good level. From others, absolutely not. We have to decide, consistently as a group, how we want to play.
“I thought we got some good shifts, but our top guys, Gabby, Richards, Nasher, just have to get going more.”
Toronto (2-2-0) will need to replace one its top players after forward Joffrey Lupul broke his forearm in a win at Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, just days after signing a five-year contract extension.
He missed his first game Thursday when the Maple Leafs fell 7-4 at home to the New York Islanders, prompting fans to chant “Let’s go Blue Jays!” in the final minutes.
Coach Randy Carlyle isn’t giving up on his team that quickly, but he also knows the inconsistency will hurt Toronto going forward. It went 0 for 5 on the power play, which included a pair of 5-on-3 advantages – including one late in the first period while holding a 3-1 lead.
“I think we saw one team (Wednesday) and a totally different team (Thursday),” Carlyle said. “We were out of it, we were out of sync.
“It you don’t score on your 5-on-3 at some point in the game usually momentum is going to turn in favor of the opposition.”
Though the home fans have been displeased, the Leafs are playing well on the road. They beat Montreal 2-1 on Jan. 19, and James van Riemsdyk scored twice and added an assist in a 5-2 over the Penguins on Wednesday night.
Toronto is 1 for 24 on the power play while going 2-4-1 in the last seven meetings with the Rangers, but both victories came at Madison Square Garden.
It’s unclear who will be in net for the Leafs after Ben Scrivens allowed five goals on 25 shots Thursday before being pulled in favor of James Reimer.
“It’s another learning experience and it’s a tough one to swallow, but I’ll take what I can from it,” Scrivens said.
The Leafs have gotten the better of Henrik Lundqvist in the last three meetings, scoring 10 goals after he shut them out in his two previous starts. Lundqvist, though, earned a 4-3 shootout victory in the most recent matchup March 24.
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