The addition of Rick Nash to a team that finished the 2011-12 regular season with the most points in the Eastern Conference was supposed to bolster an offensive attack and help the Rangers reach their first Stanley Cup final since June 1994.
Instead, a season-long inability to score goals had the Rangers in 10th place in the conference entering last night’s home game against the Hurricanes and suffering from a crisis of confidence.
“Our team saw every good offensive play they could see today,” head coach John Tortorella told reporters in his pregame press conference. The 63 goals the Rangers have scored this season are second fewest in the NHL, ahead of only Columbus and San Jose (both of whom have scored 60 goals this season).
“It’s trying to get some sort of confidence in themselves.”
Equally concerning is that there is not much time to salvage the season. They trail the No. 8 seed Hurricanes by three points and are a point behind the No. 9 seed Islanders, and have just 21 games left.
“We are what we are right now,” Brian Boyle told reporters following the morning skate at the team training facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. “We expect more of ourselves. [I] still think we should be confident in ourselves.”
The Rangers’ two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back season has led to speculation that the organization may look to make personnel changes, most notably the persistent rumors that right wing Marian Gaborik is on the trade block.
However the team is soon to receive an addition, and it will not cost them a player off the roster.
Arron Asham skated Monday morning and told reporters afterward he felt “pretty good.”
“It felt better today than it did [last week] in Winnipeg when I skated. If everything goes [well] it’s just a matter of getting into game shape. Once I’m ready for that, I’ll be ready to come back.”
Brought in to replace Brandon Prust, Asham has only played in 12 games this season. He has one goal and 17 penalty minutes due to lingering back spasms. Asham said this is the first time in his 14-year NHL career he has had a back injury.
The Rangers are 4-7-1 without Asham.
“Just making strides to get better and better, and get back. I can still feel it [but it’s] nothing that I can’t play through,” Asham said. “It hasn’t been fun sitting in the stands watching the team go through up and downs. I want to be in there and do my part. [I’ve] just got to concentrate on my game and be a good cheerleader in the stands and hopefully work my way back into the lineup soon.
“Right now I feel the back could hold up during a game. It’s just a matter of getting into game shape.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.