Friday, December 10, 2010

Pregame: New York Rangers Look For Two Straight Against Struggling Blue Jackets

The New York Rangers are kicking off a very tough six game stretch in Columbus Saturday night agains the Blue Jackets.  They will be looking to win their second in a row after winning a rather ugly game on Thursday night against the Senators.  The Rangers will be look to extend on their phenomenal 11-4 road record and the Jackets 7-7-1 home record certainly adds to the hopes of that.  Columbus comes in struggling after a fast start going 1-5-1 in their last seven outings.  With the following five games on the schedule the Rangers will need to pick up these points.

New York Rangers (17-12-1) at Columbus Blue Jackets (15-11-1)

Key Opposition Player: Rick Nash (14-7-21)

Rangers Lineup:
Ruslan Fedotenko - Derek Stepan– Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Artem Anisimov - Ryan Callahan
Sean Avery – Brian Boyle – Brandon Prust
Alex Frolov– Erik Christensen –Todd White

Marc Staal -Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto – Michal Rozsival
Matt Gilroy – Michael Sauer


(Lines are likely to be different tomorrow, but White is likely in with Boogaard back in NY and I am assuming that Eminger will not go tomorrow based on today’s reports)

The Rangers did what was necessary in Ottawa and among the highlights for the club was the work of the newly formed top line as all three of Fedotenko, Stepan and Gaborik played well as individuals and with one another combining on two goals in the game.  The team will certainly look for that to continue unlike the last time that Gaborik has new linemates had a huge first outing and nothing after.  Derek Stepan has been among the Rangers best players over the past three weeks and has a point in every game he has started with Gaborik.  If he keeps those things up his name will become more and more prevalent in some personal award conversations as well as locking down his place in the lineup.

Everyone will be hoping that the empty net goal that Brandon Dubinsky got late in the game against Ottawa will spark his offensive game which has tailed off considerable of late.  The goal, his 13th on the season, was only Dubinsky’s first in 9 games and third in his last 17 games.  To say that his contributions to the offense are critical to the viability of this team would be an understatement.  He is still doing the other things in his game but goals are something the club needs from him with some regularity.

On defense the Rangers will need to be much better in this game compared to the last game or they will be in a lot of trouble.  Columbus is a team that has the thing that gives the Rangers the most problems; speed.  Everyone knows about Rick Nash but there is a good deal of other talent in Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek, R.J. Umberger all who have speed and skill which has certainly hurt the Rangers.  In net for the Jackets is likely to be Steve Mason since Matieu Garon started in their last game against the Blues.  Mason has been up and down this season but has the ability to shut down the opposition on any given night.

Prediction: Rangers 3-2 (Stepan, Callahan, Prust)