|Rangers open road swing at streaking Avalanche|
The New York Rangers have been one of the best road teams in the NHL over the past two seasons. That success is going to be severely tested in their first stop of a four-game road trip.
The Rangers are 34-21-4 on the road since the start of the 2016-17 season, which is tops in the Eastern Conference in that span. But they face a tough task in trying to stop the hottest team in the NHL. The Colorado Avalanche have won eight straight games and have soared past last year's totals with 38 games left in this season.
Beating the Avalanche won't be easy when the two teams meet for a matinee matchup Saturday at Pepsi Center.
New York (24-17-5) started slow this season but has earned at least a point in 12 of its last 18 games. Since coming out of the gate at 1-5-2, the Rangers are 23-12-3 and enter Friday's action in the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
As if playing the red-hot Avalanche wasn't hard enough, New York will be without one of its top defensemen for an indefinite period. Kevin Shattenkirk, who began his career with Colorado, has a meniscus tear in his left knee and will undergo surgery. He hasn't missed a game this season and has five goals and 18 assists, and his production will be missed.
"It's something I've had all season and have been trying to play through," Shattenkirk told Newsday on Friday. "Looking at all the options, it's the right time to have surgery and handle it before it becomes something that you have to do later at a crucial part of the season."
Coach Alain Vigneault also announced Friday that defenseman Marc Staal will miss the first two games of the road trip -- and three straight overall -- with a hip flexor, and center Kevin Hayes (leg bruise) is questionable against the Avalanche. He has missed three straight games.
The Rangers recalled defenseman Tony DeAngelo and forward Daniel Catenacci from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League on Friday, and both will be available to Colorado.
The Avalanche (25-17-3) have overcome major injuries during their winning streak thanks to great contributions from their depth. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier has won seven straight games and started the last six after Semyon Varlamov went down with a groin injury on Jan. 2.
Tyson Barrie, a top-four defenseman, has been out several weeks with a fractured bone in his right hand, and forwards Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher and Sven Andrighetto have missed time with injuries.
Despite the challenges, Colorado has outscored opponents 34-13 in the streak and has never trailed in the eight games.
Center Nathan MacKinnon has been the main offensive catalyst in the streak that started Dec. 29 against Toronto. He has scored at least one goal in four straight games and has recorded at least a point in every game of the streak. His 22 goals are two shy of his career high set during his 2013-14 rookie season, and his 57 points are second in the NHL to Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov.
MacKinnon isn't worried about his own stats, he is focused on the team's success. The Avalanche jumped into the second wild card after Thursday's 5-3 win over San Jose, and MacKinnon wants to keep rolling.
"We're not going to win every game this season. We could lose two, three in a row but this is a good foundation for us to realize how we are going to win," he said after the win over the Sharks. "We're not just lucky; we are winning eight straight. So, when some adversity comes, we'll have this to look back on."