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The Rangers Are Awfully Hot Right Now

3-0 win over Jets is fourth straight victory for the Rangers

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Mar 29, 2012  |  Updated 11:37 AM EDT
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Gaborik has plenty to smile about these days.

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A week ago, the Rangers were in panic mode and summoning Sean Avery from Hartford in an attempt to inject some life in a team that showed very little of it through the first nine games of the season.

Mission accomplished, although it is hard to say just what Avery has done to turn the team's fortunes around. He has played sparingly in two games, but the Rangers have won four straight since starting the wheels in motion for that move so perhaps simply making it clear something had to change has done the trick to get the team heading in the right direction.

Or maybe it was the decision to break up Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik a short time into their partnership.

The move gives the Rangers two lines that create pressure in the offensive zone and Derek Stepan, moved onto Gaborik's line, had four points during victories over the Canadiens and Jets over the weekend.

Stepan looks like a perfect fit next to Gaborik because his anticipation and vision are so good that the sniper gets great looks as a result. Stepan scored the first goal Sunday night and set up Gaborik with a splendid pass for the second as the Rangers skated off to a 3-0 win in front of Martin Biron's strong work in net.

And Gaborik looks both healthy and happy this season after struggling with both things last season.  His play slumped as a result, but he's scoring a lot this season and looks like he's due for a big year so long as he is able to remain in the lineup with players who know how to get him the puck in the right spots.

The Stepan-Gaborik fireworks came after a long stretch of ugly play, something that you'd expect to see on the second night of back-to-back games for both teams without any particular rivalry or other reason to jolt the action on the ice to a higher level. Those are games that it is easy to lose because focus wanders away when energy is low, but the Rangers were able to win a game against a team they are supposed to beat.

Damning with faint praise? Perhaps, but teams that want to do anything with their seasons win games like this and they do it even though it might be tough to find a second gear.

After all, if Mark Messier can run the marathon at 50 and act disappointed that he didn't win, the Rangers can't really come up with any excuse for not winning on the Garden ice.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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