The Rangers play their third game in five days since the break. With a fourth in six tomorrow versus Buffalo, waiver pickup Alex Auld gets the call giving Henrik Lundqvist a rare day off. It's a tall order as the well traveled 29 year-old vet who's now with his seventh team (Van, Fla, Bos, Phx, Ott, Dal, NYR) has to deal with Alexander Ovechkin and the rest of the explosive East-leading Caps.
This should be fun. A team that boasts Ovie, the most underrated superstar in the game Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Mike Green, Tom "Orr" Poti, Brooks Laich and Tomas Fleischmann usually gives us fits. Take the wild 6-5 loss a month ago. A game the Rangers led 2-1 and 5-3 before wilting. That also was Olli Jokinen's Ranger debut if memory serves correctly. He had a goal and assist. Since the club acquired him and Brandon Prust from Calgary for rejects Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik, the Jokester has tallied two goals and five assists over seven games which the Blueshirts have gone 4-2-1 in.
Not bad. By comparison, the Devils are 3-4-1 since acquiring Ilya Kovalchuk (3-5-8) and Anssi Salmela (1-2-3) However, there's a huge difference with the Devs as usual ahead of the Rangers in the standings and a virtual postseason lock depsite their slump. Meanwhile, an inconsistent team that can be dictated to in its end as was the case the other night (55:16) will continue to struggle just to qualify for the Spring a fifth straight time. Hard to believe. They're currently tied with Atlanta and Montreal for the final spot but rank ninth due to more games played than the eighth Thrashers who visit Tampa Bay tonight. Oddly enough, Hotlanta has been fine without Kovy losing just once in regulation (4-1-2) while Niclas Bergfors (4-2-6) and Johnny Oduya (0-3-3, +4) have been fine.
None of that bodes well for the Rangers who at least get back Marian Gaborik (groin). How effective he'll be remains to be seen. They should be careful in terms of overplaying their meal ticket. This isn't exactly a Cup contender. That should be taken into account. Facing the Caps in the nation's capital might be a nightmare. Especially since they were very active at the deadline adding Joe Corvo, Eric Belanger, Scott Walker and reacquiring Milan Jurcina to further bolster the roster. Figure Ovechkin to be fired up with rival Sidney Crosby surpassing him in the goalscoring race with two today (43, 44). In other words, yikes.
We'll see what the Rangers come up with.