Saturday, January 1, 2011

Pregame: Rangers At Lightning

The Rangers will take the ice looking for their third straight win and to avenge two previous losses against Tampa this evening.  New York comes into the new year at 22-14-2 which is good enough for 6th in the East, but they are looking up at the first place Lightning who are currently 22-11-5 and in 2nd in the conference.  The Rangers took care of the business they had to last month and beat some good teams along the way to end 2010 with an impressive 8-3-1 December and tonight will look to start 2011 off right. 

The two meetings between these two clubs have been very strange games in that the first time it was one of the worst performances the Rangers put on all season in Tampa losing 5-3 in a game that was not that close.  The game last week took eleven rounds in the shootout before Ryan Malone finally ended what for the most part was an ugly event that saw few good attempts after the first few. 

Key Opposing Player: Steven Stamkos (31-25-56)

Rangers Lineup:
Dubinsky - Stepan - Gaborik

Frolov - Anisimov - Zuccarello
Fedotenko - Boyle - Prust
Avery - Drury - Weise

Staal - Girardi

Rozsival - Eminger
Gilroy - Sauer



: Michael Del Zotto (healthy), Erik Christensen (knee), Derek Boogaard (concussion)
Another game another injury to deal with for the Rangers as they lost center Erik Christensen to a sprained knee in the second period against the Devils and he will be out 4-6 weeks.   To adjust for the Christensen injury we have yet another new set of lines with Chris Drury moving back to center, Dale Weise coming up and a revamped second/third line.  The top line of Dubinsky, Stepan and Gaborik played well against the Devils and as long as Dubinsky plays as aggressively as he has the last three games the Rangers will be just fine and that line could be dynamite due to the mix of speed, skill and toughness.

For me the Fedotenko, Boyle, Prust line becomes the teams second line because you know what you are going to get from them and their consistency has warranted it.  Be interesting to see if Tortorella matches that line up with the Stamkos line at even strength to take advantage of the defensive skill of Boyle and Prust.  The all Euro line consists of Alex Frolov, Artem Anisimov and Mats Zuccarello and is both scary and intriguing at the same time.  The line has very good potential in terms of skill, especially with the way Anisimov is playing an aggressive game on both ends of late, but also the line can lack some physical presence with Frolov not exactly known for banging bodies and while Zuccarello is willing his size will not scare anyone. 

As I said Drury moves back to center on the fourth line and he will work with Avery and Weise and that was the same combination that was used in Weise other game against the Flyers.  This line should be defensively responsible and will work hard in their limited ice time at even strength.

Defensively it will come down to Henrik Lundqvist who was stellar against New Jersey and will need to be every bit of that tonight if the Rangers are to be in it.  Staal and Girardi will obviously get the assignment against Stamkos and St. Louis and they will do a pretty good job on them at least as much as can be expected, but I worry about a hot Vinny Lecavalier against likely a pairing of Rozsival and Eminger.  Vinny has points in four straight (4G, 1A) including one against the Rangers in the last game. 

Once again it will be Michael Del Zotto who is the scratch on defense and this caused me to discuss how if he is not going to get back in soon the Rangers should send him down to the AHL and let him play.  We will obvious see how this continues to develop.

Also of note for the Lightning is they will be starting Cedrick Desjardins in his second career NHL game tonight and so I wrote up a quick “scouting report” on the rookie netminder.

Prediction: Rangers 4 - Tampa 3 (Dubinsky, Anisimov, Zuccarello, Staal)