The Rangers reached the 41-game midway point of their schedule Wednesday, virtually equidistant from having the top record in the Eastern Conference and from missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season.DARK thoughts coming later in the day...
So what should curious onlookers expect in the second act of this Broadway production?
"I like what we're capable of," leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky told the Record (N.J.). "It's a funny team. We're in the middle. We could either not make the playoffs or be first in the (East).
"Right now, we're right at the fork. If we can find a way to bury our chances and to play consistently for 60 minutes and not just rely on the last 30 minutes, we can be dangerous."
At 23-15-3 entering a two-game trip beginning Friday in Dallas, the Rangers are six points ahead of their pace from last season at the halfway mark.
"The dynamic of the two teams is completely different," Dubinsky said. "I think this year's team is suited better for the tougher part of the season, which is the second half. We have guys who play physical, and we can grind wins out. I don't know if we were that team last year."
Added star winger Marian Gaborik: "I think we've created an identity as a team. We're a hard team to play against, we lead (the NHL) in hits and are (third) in blocked shots. That tells you something. We just need to get some wins here, win a few in a row ... begin to create a gap with the teams behind us now.
"The belief in this room is we (will make the playoffs). But we have to take it step by step. Nothing will be easy."
RANGERS 2, HURRICANES 1 (OT): Mats Zuccarello showed a flair for the dramatic Wednesday, netting his first NHL goal. The talented Norwegian rookie, recalled late last month from AHL Connecticut, emerged from behind the net and roofed the game-winner at 3:09 of overtime. Zuccarello also assisted on defenseman Matt Gilroy's regulation goal, and Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves as the Rangers ended a two-game slide (0-1-1). "I saw the puck went in and it was an unbelievable rush," Zuccarello said. "You hear the fans cheer. It's just a great feeling."