Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rangers fans losing confidence

It's understandable that even die-hard Ranger fans are questioning just how good their team is. It's understandable to think that it's time to pack it in for the season, make some changes and look forward to next year. It's also understandable to think of where the Rangers were last season at this time and think that they have a shot to do big things.

At this time last year, the Rangers came off the all-star break to lose two games in a row. Then came the Sean Avery trade and the Rangers went on to make a playoff push that no one thought was possible. They made the playoffs, swept the Trashers and put up a fight against the mighty Buffalo Sabres. If this reminds us of anything, it's that we're not out of the picture yet. We're far from it in fact.

Is there another Sean Avery out there that will motivate us and be the missing cog to out inconsistant and frustrating machine? Probably not. Does the team have what it takes to make the playoffs and have a good showing this year? Probably, but only if everyone gets on the same page.

Marek Malik won't be traded for a top four defenseman. Marcel Hossa won't net the Rangers a Marian Hossa. In order to get someone of that caliber, the farm system will have to go. Glen Sather said that he is looking around for a top-line centerman for the Rangers. The reasoning? To take pressure off of Chris Drury and move him back to the wing, where he was super successful with the Colorado Avalanche. I've read today the names Mats Sundin, David Vybourny and Peter Forsberg as possibilities. Forsberg will cost us only money, which isn't the worst thing in the world, but Sundin and Vybourny will cost us some combination of Bobby Sanguinetti, Alexi Cherepanov, first or second round draft picks, Petr Prucha, Nigel Dawes, Ryan Callahan, Al Montoya and some similar prospects. Is that the road Ranger fans want to go down for three months of Sundin scoring goals? My vote is no.

Whatever the Rangers do between now and the end of February will have no impact on tonight's game. The Rangers take on Philadelphia in what is probably going to be an emotional and physical game. Some line combinations may change as these were the lines for practice:

Straka - Gomez - Jagr
Avery - Dubinsky - Shanahan
Dawes - Drury - Prucha
Orr - Betts - Hollweg

Couple of surprises here too. Stephen Valiquette gets the start, which gives Henrik Lundqvist the Devils tomorrow night and Montreal on Sunday. Valiquette has played well in Philly so the move makes sense. Malik is also in the lineup in place of Paul Mara tonight. The big man needs to see the ice to either be effective or be showcased. With the game being against the Flyers, having Strudwick in there should things get chippy is an asset that Renney didn't want to lose.

Game time is 7pm again tonight. The Rangers need to get points out of these games against Atlantic Division opponents. I'll check in again later.

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