Already looking at a little easier of a task tonight with Ilya Kovalchuck in the press box, the Rangers will have Marek Malik somewhere other than the ice as well for tonight's rematch with Atlanta. Even though the fleet-footed defenseman had picked up his game over the last three game since being reinserted into the lineup, Malik was absent from morning skate this morning. To make things even more odd, none of his equipment was in his locker either. A few pictures and a practice jersey was all that remained. Tom Renney answered the questions of where everyone's favorite defenseman was with "it's an internal matter," but made sure to point out that he was still a Ranger.
Maybe Glen Sather is on the verge of pulling off a trade, and the last two games were really a showcase for other teams. I bashed Malik as much as the next guy, but was and still am fully aware that he could be a decent defenseman. In a faster league, however, it is hard for him to keep up. Unable to clutch, grab, hold and take down the oncoming offensemen has hurt Malik's game. He will undoubtedly be suffering the Tom Poti syndrome should he be dealt, and upon returning will be met with choruses of boo's at the Garden whenever he touches the ice.
Should Malik really be done as a Ranger, we'll need to call someone up or acquire another defender. Thomas Pock has played in 39 games with the Wolfpack, registering six goals, 15 assists and a plus-6 rating to go along with 30 penalty minutes. He would have to clear re-entry waivers, but he should be looked at as a platoon partner for Jason Strudwick. Other than that, the only other defenseman that may be ready may be Andrew Hutchinson, who has 33 points in 40 games with the Pack and is +12 on the year. I believe he has to clear re-entry waivers as well, but I could be mistaken.
I'll be on often today, updating everyone on Malik sightings, passing on Brian Leetch news and covering the game. Until later...