Monday, October 24, 2011

Game Preview NYR at WPG: Wolski returns

Tonight, the Rangers will visit Winnipeg for the first time since NHL '96 was in stores. Sega Genesis was hot along with Super Nintendo. There were no PS3's, Ipods, Iphones or Ipads.

Fifteen years later, the rebirth of the Winnipeg Jets has been evident with every seat sold filled with tremendous support. When they defeated the Pens for their first home win last week, it was 15 years in the making. Fans went wild as the final minute wound down. This is the kind of atmosphere the Blueshirts must contend with tonight in their final road game before arriving for Thursday's home opener at the World's Most Renovated Arena.

Known as the former Thrashers, who have made a living tormenting us, Winterpeg hosts the first of four meetings. Last year, they took three of four including a damaging win at MSG that nearly ended our season. Indeed, players like Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Alex Burmistrov and Nik Antropov gave us fits. Even Jim Slater did. Don't forget Ondrej Pavelec, who can make the highlight reel save look routine. If only he got more help. Winnipeg plays an exciting style based around their speed and skill. They can really come at you in waves. Given our D issues, this should be a stiff test. Can they prevent the new Jets from dominating down low?

Much depends on the invisible Draft Line of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan, who really need to get their act together. I already got on Cally and Dubi, who are two of our leaders that haven't been pulling their weight. I realize they have hefty raises. But there are no excuses. Anisimov hasn't been bad but you'd never know it by his statline of just two assists. He hasn't taken foolish penalties and filled in admirably on the PK, which btw needs our top forward American duo out instead of in the box watching teams capitalize. After how John Tortorella erupted in Edmonton, everyone must respond. The slow starts are disturbing. We can't be stuck on 8-9 shots with nearly 40 minutes played.

Henrik Lundqvist cramped up the other night and was replaced by Martin Biron, who at least saw his first action since preseason. I'd hardly call three saves much to go by. But it's a virtual lock that our capable backup will get the call later. At times last year, the team played better in front of him than King Henrik. I'm hoping for a similar game.

I know Tort shook up the lines the other night. With Wojtek Wolski finally returning from a groin injury that caused him to miss the opening six, no more Erik Christensen. Wolski's best assets are his size and forecheck ability. Something that's been lacking. Figure Tort to slot him in on the fourth line with Kris Newbury and Mike Rupp. If Christy plays over Newbury, I might toss an object at the wall. Newbury is a much better fit for that line. EC doesn't fit anymore. He's too perimeter oriented and inconsistent. It's hard to fathom that this waste is still on the roster while Sean Avery is banished to Hartford and Mats Zuccarello the same.

I'd like the coach to keep Derek Stepan with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. With Brendan Bell struggling in his Ranger debut, figure Jeff Woywitka to be back in.

Projected Lines:

Stepan-Richards-Gaborik
Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan
Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust
Wolski-Newbury-Rupp

McDonagh-Girardi
Del Zotto-Erixon
Eminger-Woywitka

Biron
Lundqvist

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