Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stepan Skates On Rangers Top Line With Gaborik, Richards

According to Pat Leonard of the Daily News, Derek Stepan skated with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik on the top line during practice this afternoon.  It is not set that Stepan will play there on Saturday, but it allows the Rangers to reunite Dubinsky, Anisimov and Callahan to give the Rangers their best line from last season back. 

Here is how the lines shaped out today:
Stepan - Richards - Gaborik
Dubinsky - Anisimov - Callahan
Fedotenko - Boyle - Prust
Rupp - Christensen - Zuccarello
This is the kind of lineup I was calling for on Sunday as it gives the Rangers their two most consistent lines from last season to be the foundation as the rest of the lineup looks for chemistry and rhythm. This gives Stepan the ability to showcase his skill and be much more involved than he has been in the first two games.  He has the tools to play with Richards and Gaborik, but that line will have to do it with skill as their is a lack of physicality amongst the trio.  Gaborik would be playing with two extremely good playmakers and Stepan could be the biggest beneficiary as the attention to his linemates should create scoring chances for him.

Was Avery Playing Hurt During Rangers Training Camp?

Sean Avery might be in the AHL right now with the Connecticut Whale, but there is no telling when he will actually suit up for the team.  According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post the winger is unavailable as he is receiving treatment for a right shoulder problem.  
Avery, who has not skated since playing in his third and final preseason game with the Blueshirts in Gothenberg, Sweden, on Sept. 30, underwent an MRI exam upon his return to New York from Stockholm on Oct. 5 after clearing waivers a day earlier, The Post has learned. 

The MRI exam revealed no structural damage. If the shoulder does not respond to treatment, Avery might require a cortisone injection that would further delay his return to the ice. 
The fact that Avery could have been playing injured during camp is yet another twist in the training camp drama that saw him be cut from the roster last week.  Avery playing through the injury and trying to make the team without complaining about it is admirable, especially since it opened the door to send him down on waivers.  As Brooks points out, had Avery revealed his injury prior he could have filed a grievance against the Rangers because you are not allowed to waive injured players.

McDonagh Has Grown Into Top Caliber Defender For Rangers

One year ago Ryan McDonagh was coming off his first training camp with the New York Rangers having shown well in the preseason, but having been sent down to get more experience with the then Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL).  McDonagh struggled early on in the AHL, but few would believe that with the way he has grown since joining the Rangers on January 3, 2011.  When McDonagh joined the lineup the hope was that he could play solid on the third defensive pair while gaining experience and eventually moving up the ranks.  McDonagh quickly changed those calculations with his seamless transition to the NHL that had him combine with Michael Sauer to form a stellar second pair. 

McDonagh was expected to continue in his role on the second pairing with Sauer to give the Rangers, along with Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, one of the best top four defensive groups in the league Last month, during training camp, it was revealed that Marc Staal has been dealing with concussion issues over the summer and ended up not being ready for the start of the season.  With Staal unavailable, McDonagh was elevated to play with Dan Girardi against the best line that the opposition has to offer.  The loss of an All-Star player like Staal from any lineup is a huge void to fill and there was considerable fear amongst the fans that the void would be very evident against the excellent top lines Los Angeles and Anaheim possess.