It is an inescapable theme: the Rangers need offense.
“It’s no secret we’re [struggling],” Derek Stepan said Tuesday afternoon before the Rangers-Devils game at the Prudential Center. Despite their 2-1 shootout win over the Hurricanes Monday night, the Rangers have only scored 64 goals in 28 games.
The Rangers do not have a player in double-figure goal scoring. Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan are tied for the team lead with nine goals apiece.
So what has to change?
“Try to get yourself in a dirty area,” Stepan said. Stepan scored the Rangers’ lone non-shootout goal Monday night on a play in which he drilled a bullet past Dan Ellis, who was screened by Callahan. “Pretty simple.”
While the Rangers could use Chris Kreider, they will not “keep knee-jerking” him from AHL Connecticut and ruin his development.
Kreider has 11 goals and 19 points with the Whale this season. He has scored six goals in eight games with the Whale since being sent down on Feb. 16.
But despite what Rangers head coach John Tortorella termed “good reports” on Kreider from the coaching staff at the Whale, the wing will not be a short-term fix.
“[The organization does not] want to keep knee-jerking him,” Tortorella said. “We’re dying to get a guy — 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3 and can skate like hell — but [we’re not going to do it] at the expense of him and the expense of [his] development.”
Points over rivalry
The Hudson River Rivalry is a given, but for the Devils, a possible two points is more important than reviving hostilities with the Rangers.
The Devils entered last night’s game in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of the No. 9 seed Rangers. The salary cap-created parity has 13 of the 15 Eastern Conference teams and 14 of the 15 Western Conference teams still alive in the playoff race.
“Obviously the rivalry is always there but I think where we are in the standings, there’s probably a mixture of eight or nine teams. We’re all battling it out for the last few spots. I think that’s going to be like that for the next month,” Devils head coach Pete DeBoer told reporters after the Devils’ morning skate at the Prudential Center.
“For us we have to find a way to pick up points every night,” DeBoer said. “Even on the nights we don’t win, we have to find a way to get games to overtime, to win your shootout opportunities when you get them. Those are all opportunities to pick up points instead of leaving them on the table.”
The Devils announced early Tuesday afternoon goaltender Martin Brodeur had been activated from the injured reserve. Goaltender Jeff Frazee was reassigned to AHL Albany in the corresponding roster move. The Devils also called up Tim Sestito from AHL Albany.
Brodeur told reporters after practice Monday he had been bothered by a pinched nerve. He backed up Johan Hedberg last night and it is thought he will start tomorrow night in Carolina.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.