Thursday, November 11, 2010

Game Preview: Sabres-Rangers Gaborik back in, Rozsival out

Marian Gaborik returns for the Rangers tonight. Can he wake up invisible Russian Alex Frolov from the doldrums?
When the Rangers attempt to snap a two-game losing streak in the third game of a four-game homestand tonight versus the Sabres, Marian Gaborik returns. After missing the last dozen with a separated shoulder, the Big Ticket is back even if it's less than 100 percent.

I’m good to go,” Gaborik told the Rangers’ official website. “It’s feeling confident enough and comfortable enough to jump back into things, and after (Wednesday’s practice) I feel that way. It’s been awhile since I played and I am very anxious to get back in there.

I’m not a big guy about he’s 100 percent or he’s 95 percent, John Tortorella said. “Can you play or not? And Gabi knows that, and he came to me after practice and said he’s ready to play. And I said ‘OK!’

Gabby's return comes at a good time with the Homegrown Line finally hitting a wall after carrying the load. No doubt the club needs leading goalscorer Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan to get untracked. Perhaps Gaborik can relieve some pressure. It would be refreshing if he lit a fire under Russian enigma Alex Frolov, who remains stuck on two goals. Does slumping Erik Christensen anchor them or will Tort give rookie Derek Stepan another shot since he's been playing better? Who comes out? Maybe Christy or snake bit Ruslan Fedotenko.

Following another tough loss at MSG this time to the Caps 5-3 in what was a winnable game, the Blueshirts need contributions from others aside from revelation Brian Boyle (2nd two-goal gm for career high 7 goals) and Derek Boogaard with his best Fulton Reed impersonation, stunning everyone for his first goal in 234 games. The best part was Bruce Boudreau's Tinman look behind the Washington bench which Versus caught perfectly. I was getting a brew when it happened just after the Caps tied it. And then checked the replay and stood in shock. Haha.

Unfortunately, the Rangers didn't win. Michal Rozsival got double teamed into a turnover which led to the winner. If only Frolov wasn't so lazy on the backcheck. He also failed to clear the zone the first time Rozy sent the puck around. The lack of attention to detail proved costly. As for Rozsival who had a forgettable game going minus-three, he'll sit out for at least a week due to a shoulder injury he'd been nursing. Replacing his minutes won't be easy. Especially with Steve Eminger stepping up while Matt Gilroy gets another chance. The pressure will be immense for Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and slumping Mike Del Zotto, who looks like he needs to be sent down. The confidence just isn't there. Might an extra junior year have helped? Look what it's done for Alex Pietrangelo. John Carlson also spent time in the AHL. The Rangers are stuck because no one's ready. That means living with DZ's mistakes.

Can this team bounce back and get another win in a place they continually disappoint fans? The 2-5-1 record is ugly despite the last two efforts being satisfactory against better clubs. If you can go toe to toe with the talented Caps, you should be able to pull it out. As a frustrated Henrik Lundqvist pointed out the other night, they have to find a way to win. Something that hasn't been an issue on the road (5-2-0). He'll likely see Buffalo rookie Jhonas Enroth, who was good enough to hold off the Devils in a 5-4 shootout- their second consecutive win via the skill comp. Only 22, Lundqvist's countryman should be motivated if he gets the call. Patrick Lalime has been banged up. With Ryan Miller expected to miss a sixth consecutive game, it could be an all Swedish affair on Broadway.

As for the Sabres, they're finally winning. Albeit two late goals allowed them to rally past the Leafs and Devils to get out of the cellar. They're now tied for 12th with Florida with 12 points, trailing the eighth Rangers by three. Most of the conference is bunched up. So, these games take on a whole new meaning. We're sure Bettman is pleased with the parity. Night to night, you never know.

Buffalo is led by Derek Roy, who's been putting the puck in with regularity. Jason Pominville notched his first goal last night and Tyler Myers is scoring despite continued struggles in his end, which started in a Ranger opening 6-3 win at Buffalo on Oct.9. Thomas Vanek is always dangerous despite only four goals. Keep an eye on rookie Tyler Ennis, who got his third goal and ninth point, forcing overtime yesterday. Grinders like Ranger killer Patrick Kaleta, Mike Grier and Paul Gaustad usually give our D fits. Hopefully, the new look blueline will be up to the challenge.

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