Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Del Zotto Injures Hand/Wrist, Williams Stretchered Off In Whale Game

When the season began the expectations for Michael Del Zotto coming off an excellent offensive rookie season were very high.  The plan was for him to remain a top four defenseman for the club, and be the power play quarterback, but that plan has failed for this season.  It has been a tumultuous sophomore season in which he struggled with his play on the ice and then his confidence.  Things got to the point where the Rangers sent him down in early January to work on his game and while he was better when he came back, he was still not where he needs to be.  With the Rangers trading for Byran McCabe over the weekend they decided to send Del Zotto down to Connecticut to work on his game and get plenty of ice time.  It appears that plan might be out the window now as well.

Per Mitch Beck at Howlings Del Zotto was slashed on the wrist during tonight’s game and did not return to action.  After the game he was wearing a splint and had the hand wrapped.  The hand/wrist will be evaluated by a hand specialist tomorrow so there should be more information available at that point.  Hopefully it will be good news and there is just bruising, but always have to be prepared for more costly news.

Also injured in the game was Jeremy Williams who was hit into the boards during the first period and had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher.  Also via Howlings, the initial reports on Williams are good and he was said to be joking with teammates.

Wishing the best to both players as the Rangers injury curse for 2010-11 just continues to spread.

Video: Gillies At It Again, Ejected For Headhunting Clutterbuck In First Game Back

If the NHL needed proof that long suspensions are not a deterrent to dirty play they got it on Wednesday night from Trevor Gillies of the New York Islanders.  Gillies was playing in his first game since receiving a 9 game suspension for his part in the Islanders-Penguins embarrassment on February 11th and it took him less than two periods to get tossed from the game.
Only 2:23 into the second period Gillies took a run at Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild with obvious intent to injure him.  Gillies was given a 5-minute major for checking from behind and immediately ejected for his two hand punch to crush Clutterbuck’s head into the glass.  Some will try and defend Gillies saying he was sticking up for Justin DiBenedetto, but there much more legitimate ways to go about defending a teammate.  I expect Gillies to be done for the year.
Here’s the video of the hit:

Here is the video of the Versus crew talking about the hit.

Staal, Fedotenko Could Return vs Wild Tomorrow; Gaborik Progessing, But Not There Yet

The New York Rangers had good news at practice today involving a trio of their walking wounded.  Marc Staal and Ruslan Fedotenko were able to participate fully in practice and both are possible additions to the lineup tomorrow against Minnesota.  Marian Gaborik was also able to skate and practice today for the first time since last Friday and says he has been feeling better the past few days.
Per Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants the decisions on Staal and Fedotenko will be made tomorrow morning while coach John Tortorella has already ruled Gaborik out of the lineup.  If Staal returns it would be a huge boost to the defensive core and would likely mean Steve Eminger would be back in the press box as the healthy scratch, but Matt Gilroy could also be a possibility.  Staal has not played since February 22nd against Carolina due to the knee injury he sustained on his first shift of the game.  Staal attempted to practice on Monday in hopes of playing against Buffalo, but had a setback and missed last night’s game.  The fact that he made it through the full practice today is a good sign, but with three games in four nights they could wait an extra day to bring him back if there is any concern in the morning.
With Fedotenko all signs point to him being back in the lineup tomorrow as he recovers from aggravating his previous shoulder injury in his first game back last week.  The addition of Feds to the lineup is very important to the way the team forechecks and the aggression they play with.  Those things are contagious and the Rangers have really gotten away from them for long stretches of games lately and hopefully watching Fedotenko do it will rub off on the rest of the club.
Where Marian Gaborik is concerned the cautious approach is the best approach.  That he was able to participate in practice is a great sign, but the real test will be tonight/tomorrow to see how his head responds to the work.  If he is able to avoid the problems he had when he tried skating last week it will be another step in the process to him returning, though I would still not expect him back in the lineup in the immediate future.
For quotes from the players be sure to check out Ranger Rants where Andrew Gross does a great job as always.

Where Has Brandon Dubinsky Gone? From Team MVP to MIA

Chris Trotman/Getty Images
This New York Rangers team continues to fight, scratch, and claw through these games, but they are continually coming up a goal short in these comeback attempts.  The fact that they are falling short is not about effort, and not about an inability to create chances, but it is about their lack of finishing ability.  There are many players who are guilty of that issue, but with Marian Gaborik out there is really only one forward that in the past has shown the capability to help carry this offense; Brandon Dubinsky.  The problem however is that when the team really needs him right now he has disappeared in much the way he used to.  After scoring 38 points in his first 45 games this season, the 24-year-old winger has a grand total of five in his last 15 games.  The question left behind is, what is wrong with Brandon Dubinsky?
In the first 45 games of the year Dubinsky was clearly the team’s best and one of their most consistent forwards.  You could, and I did, argue that he was their MVP through both the first quarter and first half of the season.  What was on display was a player who had matured significantly in terms of his consistency, leadership and point production.  Gone were the questions from previous seasons about what it was in Dubinsky's game that allowed him to look like a top line player one night and invisible the next.  His will in each game was the most impressive thing about him as there were games where he would just decide that the team was not losing that night and put the club on his back.  He would be all over the ice in terms of hitting, stealing the puck, rushing the puck, forechecking, cycling and creating scoring chances.  It was to the point where even on a team that has built an identity on collective work and everyone stepping up for one another he seemed to be the driving force on the team.  Is it a coincidence that while that guy has disappeared over his last 15 games the team has struggled as much as it has?  One way to tell that might be to look at his production in wins vs losses.


Let me preface this by saying that most players will produce more when the team wins than loses, but these numbers are startling.  Maybe I give Dubinsky too much credit, but I believe there is a correlation between his lack of impact and the Rangers struggles to get over the hump is some of these games.  As you can see from the numbers in general in the 30 wins the team has had with him in the lineup he is a point per game player.  In the 30 games the team has lost with him in the lineup he averages .4 points per game and his plus/minus is a whopping 35 points lower than in wins. 
Statistics about wins and losses can also be deceiving, nevertheless here is one that might give some perspective to the importance of Dubinsky to the outcome of Rangers games this year.  The team is 20-9-2 in the 31 games he has scored at least one point (11-1 with two points) and 10-17-2 in the 29 games in which he has been held scoreless. They were also 3-2 in the 5 games he missed with the injury to his leg.
The Rangers possess a team with a lot of very nice pieces that are good players at the NHL level.  The team offensively only possesses on real game-breaker in Marian Gaborik and one other guy who is legitimately first line capable, at his best, at this stage of his career and that is Dubinsky.  Brandon clearly is not the type of natural goal scorer that Gaborik is, but he also has the ability to impact that game in many different areas and right now he simply is not doing it.  The games or even the shifts in which Dubinsky imposes his will on the opponent are becoming fewer and fewer and it leaving the Rangers in a constant search for some form of offense.  Instead we have a version of that takes more bad penalties than does positive things to help the team win, and when the rest of the offense is struggling this badly we need the other Dubinsky to arrive.
There have been no reports that say he came back too soon from the injury, even if I believe that he did, so it is tough to use that as an excuse.  There are no reports that say he is tired from the added workload early in the season.  It is tough to pinpoint what the exact cause for the drop not just in his statistical production, but his impact on the game lately.  What is certain though is that someone better figure it out quickly because as well as Boyle and Stepan have played over the course of the year, this offense, this team needs a focused and determined Brandon Dubinsky to help carry the load of this offense down the stretch.
He needs to get back to imposing his will on the opponent, to believing he can be a dominant force that can carry this team and assume the leadership in that role as he did earlier in the season.  Until he gets back to that place in his own mind the Rangers offense is still going to be looking for a spark every night.

Linus Omark Picture Perfect Placement On Shootout Winner (Video)

Greg Southam,
It is tough to fully appreciate just how special the shootout goal Edmonton Oilers’ rookie Linus Omark scored on Tuesday night is. In a shootout against Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, Omark came down the ice at full speed and then nearly came to a complete stop as he drifted away from the net on the right and as he perfectly placed a shot along the ice just inside the far post to his left. It was an extraordinary display of talent and what tells you just how special it was is the reaction of Rinne as he attempts to deal with the shot as he was trying to figure out where Omark was going to attempt to put the puck.

I believe this goal took much more skill than his previous shootout goal where he went spin-o-rama against Tampa.

The video: