There are still two weeks left until the New York Rangers 2011-12 season opens against the Los Angeles Kings, but it is hard not to read into the lines that coach John Tortorella put out today. According to Andrew Gross over at Ranger Rants today’s lineup looked as follows…
Wojtek Wolski-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Mike Rupp-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello
Marc Staal-Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto-Steve Eminger
Ryan McDonagh-Mike Sauer
Henrik Lundqvist, Marty Biron
In terms of the forwards this is the lineup that makes the most sense unless Hagelin, Bourque, Avery or Christensen go out and do something to lock up a job, which none has done yet. Zuccarello’s chemistry with Stepan last season certainly helps him in this equation, though when it comes to final decisions his cap hit might not. Personally I would rather play Rupp with Boyle and Fedotenko with Stepan, but certainly understandable that Tortorella would go back to a line that worked so well first.
Defensively it is somewhat surprising to see Del Zotto in the “projected” lineup, but Erixon did not do anything to steal a spot last night and this is also a way to boost Del Zotto’s confidence.
Overall you have to be excited for what a lineup with this kind of depth and the competition to change this lineup over the next few weeks is going to be intense.