Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Game Preview: Rangers at Canucks

They try again later tonight in British Columbia. A place that once treated them well. It really is imperative that the Rangers get in the 'W' column sometime during this crucial four-game Canadian trip that includes stops at Calgary, Edmonton and concludes in Winnipeg, who finally got their first win last night over the Pens before a hyped crowd.

At 0-1-2, the Blueshirts aren't doing themselves any favors in the league's deepest division. Everyone else has gotten out of the gate fast, putting John Tortorella's club in an early hole. Forget Europe. Forget the MSG renovation. It's time for this team to come together and build some momentum for next week's home opener. Yes, the impact of Marc Staal has been felt. Even if Ryan McDonagh has effectively teamed with Dan Girardi, the trickle down effect has forced Tortorella to trust kids Mike Del Zotto and Tim Erixon while even sprinkling in waiver pickup Jeff Woywitka on the Island due to Mike Sauer's separated shoulder that's still nagging him. Brendan Bell should debut, likely replacing Woywitka.

No one ever said it would be easy. However, there's no excuse for the ineptitude of the Draft Line, who have combined for only three points (1-2-3). That simply won't get it done. Artem Anisimov has shown improved muscle but needs support from Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. They're the glue that makes this team go. And while Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik are finding chemistry, they can't be asked to carry the load. That's not how this team was constructed. More is expected of the trio, who need to bring it starting tonight. Especially with Ryan Kesler set to debut for the Canucks, who hardly are lighting it up.

Brian Boyle is off to a poor start, admitting such to the press. Four minors and no production isn't what he had in mind. The big man is our most versatile forward, who can be shifted to wing and used up front on the power play. He's also vital for the PK, which is a double whammy when he's in the box. He, Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko need to stay together. It's no time for the coach to mess around. Keep Derek Stepan on the top line after he was our best forward Saturday. As for the fourth line, Kris Newbury was brought up to add some grit. He proved capable last year. Mike Rupp is off to a lousy start. Please tell me Wojtek Wolski replaces team ornament Erik Christensen when he gets healthy.

Prior to Henrik Lundqvist's shutout last Jan.13,  Vancouver had owned us- winning nine of the previous 10. They also had victimized King Henrik, including a pivotal showdown that turned into a home humiliation on Versus with Henke removing himself. Last year, he bested Cory Schneider. Might we get the match-up everyone wants to see with GM favorite Roberto Luongo? We all know Luongo didn't deserve to get nominated for the Vezina. Statement game for Henrik? He'll need some support.

The Rangers must stay disciplined. That means no more silly penalties for the league's second most penalized team. And for the love of sanity, don't let Chris Higgins score. It won't be easy against The Sedins and pest Alex Burrows. McDonagh and Girardi will really be tested. Who takes Kesler? Hope Tort matches the Boyle unit against him.

We'll see if they're up to the challenge.

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