Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pregame Pondering: Rangers at Lightning, 11/24/10

New York (12-9-1) vs Tampa Bay (12-7-2)

Key Opposition Player: Steven Stamkos (20-15-35)

Rangers Lineup:

Frolov - Stepan - Gaborik
Dubinsky - Anisimov - Callahan
Fedotenko - Boyle - Prust
Avery - Christensen - Boogaard

Staal - Girardi
Del Zotto - Eminger
Gilroy - Sauer


The New York Rangers will take the ice tonight looking to continue the momentum of two straight wins against a much improved Lighting squad who come in winners of four straight.  The hoopla that will surround the unbelievable start for Stamkos might actually help the Rangers as it allows them to remain focused on the task at hand instead of letting mind drift creep in.  The challenge will not be easy as Steven Stamkos right now is the best player in this league Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and especially Henrik Lundqvist better bring their ‘A’ game if the Rangers want to walk out with their third straight win. 

Working in the Rangers favor is that they have played very well on the road and their style of road game is the one to give them a chance in this one against a very good home team.  The Rangers will need to play with that physical edge on both ends of the ice as it is what helps them create chances offensively and prevent them on defense.  If the Rangers are forechecking and blocking shots it likely means they are playing a good game and are giving themselves the chances to win.

After two games and four days off Henrik Lundqvist is expected to return to the net for the Rangers this evening and he will have to be the Lundqvist that was in between the pipes the last time he had a two game layoff, last Monday against Pittsburgh.  In that game going up against great offensive players in Crosby and Malkin, Henrik was stellar stealing a game for his club on the road.  He will likely have to do the same tonight against Stamkos and St. Louis.  Marc Staal is coming off an excellent game against Calgary including possibly the hit of the year and Dan Girardi continues to play an All-star caliber level.  It is safe to assume that Tortorella that Staal and Girardi will be together tonight against that lethal line of the Lightning. 

Offensively the Rangers are going to need more from their own star in Marian Gaborik who has not scored in three straight and has been up and down in his impact on the games since his return.  The Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan line is likely to draw the assignment against the Stamkos line and not only will they need to be responsible defensively but it will be important for them to play their game and forecheck/cycle against them in Tampa defensive zone.  The best way to stop an offensive weapon is to make it be pinned in its own defensive zone.

Beyond Stamkos the Rangers certainly have to worry about Martin St. Louis who has routinely killed the Rangers with 32 points in 34 games against the boys from Broadway.  Aside from those two Steve Downie is the biggest threat with Vincent Lecavalier out of the lineup.  The Rangers appear to catch a break in net as Mike Smith is going to get the start over the hotter Dan Ellis tonight, though Mike Smith has had some excellent games against the Rangers in the past.

Key to Game: Special Teams: Lightning 4th in NHL at 23.7% on PP; Rangers come in having killed 24 straight and 30 of 31 over their last 10.  Rangers need to stay out of the box as much as possible as it will help the penalty kill the less it has to be out there and help limit Stamkos who has 17 of his 35 points a man up.

Prediction: Rangers 4-3 SO (Stepan, Gaborik, Dubinsky)