Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rangers set to Battle Isles Again, 7:35 PM MSG

With only a few minutes from game time, I'll make this brief as I have been busy taking care of some other holiday stuff.

To say this is a must-win game would be an understatement for a struggling Ranger club which has dropped five straight in awful fashion including blowing two consecutive second period leads in Southern Florida.

Aside from that, the improved archrival Islanders have taken the first two games (7-4 and 4-3 at MSG) in strong fashion. So there should be plenty of motivation. It's worth noting that recently the Rangers have played extremely well at Nassau Coliseum. So can they summon up the demons and take a step to getting back on track? We'll see.

Coach Tom Renney has shaken up the lines. Here are the Ranger lines for the start:

Ward-Nylander-Jagr
Cullen-Straka-Shanahan
Hollweg-Betts-Hall
Hossa-Immonen-Prucha

Renney likes the hardworking Ward and is rewarding the gritty winger by playing him on the top line. Ward has had some chemistry with Jagr (especially when Nylander was out). So this just might work. I like the second line idea of utilizing Straka's speed to help Shanahan out. Cullen also has good speed and should mesh well. The real questions as usual are the third and fourth lines. Can they step up and contribute? That remains to be seen. Will Renney have enough faith in the young fourth line comprised of a trio all 25-and-younger? He has never shown confidence in rolling four lines this season. It would be a refreshing change if he gave them at least enough shifts to make an impact. They need about 11-12 shifts IMO.

Henrik Lundqvist will get the start. He'll look to bounceback as will the team. If the Blueshirts are to have success, they must shutdown Alexei Yashin (33 pts in 26 GP) and Jason Blake (20 goals). If they don't, it will be another tough night.

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