It didn't take long for John Tortorella to change up his lines. Following last night's crushing Game One loss to the Caps, the fiery Ranger coach sought to spark his team's offense which made life too easy on winning rookie netminder Michal Neuvirth.
Not surprisingly, Tortorella's decided to split up Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov, shifting the struggling finisher to cohesive/mystifying Erik Christensen, who took 17 shifts in Wednesday's defeat (10:54). During the ex-Pen's two years on Broadway, he's had chemistry with Gaborik and key complement Vinny Prospal. After being invisible down the stretch, the Slovak showed a pulse yesterday registering four shots while getting a couple of more blocked. He had two glorious chances to be the hero but Neuvirth stoned him twice, including off a nice set up from Brian Boyle in front.
Prior to the first round series, Gaborik indicated that the Caps didn't want to see the Rangers this early, instead mentioning the Hurricanes, who fell short in their bid to make the postseason. Though he was better last night, he must contribute offensively for the Blueshirts to have any hopes of stringing the upset. With Gaborik and Prospal reunited with Christensen, figure Tortorella to reinsert Sean Avery after Norwegian rookie Mats Zuccarello got only a dozen shifts (7:34) with just 1:24 in the third and zero in overtime. Our guess is Avery will start on the fourth line alongside Chris Drury and possibly Ruslan Fedotenko, who didn't have much cohesion with Brandon Dubinsky.
Perhaps we'll see Dubinsky teamed up with Draft Line 'mate Anisimov and possible Stepan shifted to the wing, giving the Rangers a better scoring line to aid Gaborik. That would leave the unit of Brian Boyle, Brandon Prust and Wojtek Wolski intact. Fedotenko also has excellent chemistry with Boyle/Prust but is interchangeable. Our suggested lines for Game Two: