Saturday, March 19, 2011

Henrik Lundqvist Should Sit Against Penguins

That Henrik Lundqvist missed practice today should surprise no one after the collision he had last night with Benoit Pouliot late in the game.  The injury to Lundqvist does not appear to be serious and is mainly said to be a stiff neck which is very good news.  While Henrik has a desire to play tomorrow as related by the  Rangers' official twitter account there is no reason for him to suit up tomorrow. 

"I am getting ready to play, that's still my goal, but we'll see how it feels later..."

"It's just pain, nothing that can get worse..still very stiff, but had some treatment & will have whole afternoon 2 take it easy"

"my neck is still stiff, and I have a tough time moving my head...but the treatment has really helped...I'm getting there"
Yes, the Rangers are still in a huge playoff race and Buffalo’s win tonight makes it even tighter, but with a four point lead on Carolina the first goal should be having Lundqvist healthy for as many games as possible not just playing him tomorrow. 

Beyond just the thought of more seriously injuring the neck by pushing it there is the concern that if he has any stiffness in the neck it limits his ability to turn his head, which unfortunately is a required aspect of playing goaltender in the NHL.  As valuable an asset as Henrik is, and as crucial as he is to any playoff hopes. you exercise as much caution as possible and let him sit until Tuesday.  Chad Johnson, while no Lundqvist, showed last season he can be a capable spot starter so trust him to take the game and do his job.

Brandon Prust Defines What It Means To Be A Ranger (w/Moen fight video)

For many teams in the NHL the guy that keys the rest of the team is their best player as he sets the tone for the type of team they will be.  That is not the case for the New York Rangers.  The guy who sets the tone for the Rangers is Brandon Prust.  With that being the case it was a surprise to few that last night in a crucial game it was Prust who dropped the gloves with Travis Moen one second into the game. The last thing on his mind in that moment was how bad his shoulder is and that epitomizes the way he plays.  That fight sent a charge through Madison Square Garden that the Rangers carried through to their best period of the season as they scored five on their way to securing two huge points in their playoff quest. 

All season Prust has added his warrior stamp to this young Rangers team and defined the kind of mental and physical toughness that allows them to be in the playoffs right now.  Based on pure talent this team should not be a playoff team.  Based on heart and determination they could be Stanley Cup Champions and none define that more than Prust.

No matter how many different injuries he has at any given time, the number of “maintenance days” he has to take off practice or any of the rest you can bet your last dollar that when they drop the puck to start a Rangers’ game he will be in uniform. Not only will he be out there, but he will work as hard or harder than anyone else on the ice and toss his beaten body around with reckless abandon if it will help his team win.  That has become the definition of this team and what it means to be a New York Ranger.

It is why as much as Prust does to defend his teammates every one of them would go to battle for him and frankly I wish more of them did to give him a break from it.  While other teams have their best player as the definition of how they play, the New York Rangers have Brandon Prust leading that charge and all of us will follow him wherever he leads because he defines the slogan the Rangers love to push, "I am a Ranger."