Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New York Rangers vs Atlanta Thrashers Pregame

Rangers (4-2-1) vs Atlanta (3-4-1)
Key Opposing Player: Andrew Ladd (2-6-8)
Dubinsky - Anisimov - Callahan
Avery - Stepan – Fedotenko
Frolov - Christensen - Prust
Boogaard - White - Boyle

Staal - Rozsival
Del Zotto - Girardi
Gilroy/Sauer/Eminger (2 of 3)

(No announcement yet on the 3rd pair, would assume Sauer plays if over soreness)

As the Rangers take the ice in the Garden they will be looking to continue the momentum of three straight wins and work towards building some home ice advantage in the process.  The struggles on home ice were well documented last season and they stared slow in the Garden again this year, but they got win 1 at MSG on Sunday and look to make that two in a row tonight.  In Atlanta they face a dangerous team with a lot of skilled players who can strike at any point, but that is also struggling at the moment losing their last 3 (1 in OT).
This does have the makings of a sort of trap game for the Rangers playing so well their last three against a team that has struggled over the same stretch, but if this Ranger team wants to be different they have to learn to beat teams they should.  The Rangers have had a propensity over the last couple years to play down to the weaker competition and to find evidence of that look no further than losing 3 of 4 to Atlanta last year.  If they do that again tonight the Thrasher offense and Chris Mason could walk out of MSG with 2 points. 
Atlanta will be without Zach Bogosian (6th straight miss) and likely Freddy Meyer on the blue line.  These loses will hurt Atlanta but they still have some very capable guys back there in Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, and Johnny Oduya.  Whenever a team has injuries though it means you could have weaknesses further down the lineup as guys who wouldn’t normally play will have to and others will play more minutes than usual.  The Rangers need to take advantage of these absences on the Atlanta back line by continue to be very aggressive on the fore-check and cycle in the offensive zone.
The key offensive players for Atlanta are some of the acquisitions they made this off-season from Chicago in Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien.  Ladd a notorious slow starter is off to the best start of his career with 8 points in 8 games.  Byfuglien back on defense this season has 2 goals and 4 assists in the 8 games so far.  Other weapons include second year players Evander Kane (5 goals), Niclas Bergfors and former Ranger though off to slow start Nik Antropov.
The Rangers will be looking for their 4th straight and will need a very similar effort to the last 3 if they are to skate off the ice and give the stick salute to the crowd tonight.  The new top line will need to continue their efforts, and the D will have to be as solid as it was for the eight period prior to the 3rd vs New Jersey the other night.  Henrik Lundqvist coming off his best two outings of the season will look to keep it going.
Key Matchup: Special Teams: Thrashers PK is ranked 26th having surrendered 9 goals in 8 games, so Rangers will look to get the PP going. On the other side the Thrashers PP is 8th in the league at 20.5% so the Rangers strong PK of the last 3 games (14/15) will have to be there tonight
Prediction: Rangers 3-2