Whether you agree with the suspension or not, Brandon Prust will not be playing in tonight’s Game 4 against the Devils. With the opportunity to build a two game lead, the Rangers will be without one of their warriors and top penalty killers. It’s a blow, but not a blow that can’t be overcome. Unlike with Carl Hagelin, the Rangers have a few options readily available to replace Prust for the one game ban.
Option 1: Brandon Dubinsky
This option is the best option for the Rangers. With Dubi cleared for contact and partaking in optional skates, he is on the cusp of returning to action. It has to be assumed that if Dubi can play, then he will play. Dubi would be a perfect fit to replace Prust, as Dubi can slide in quietly to a fourth line role for this game, and ease back into playoff hockey. Plus, if Dubi comes back, the penalty kill won’t suffer too much with Prust out.
Option 2: Insert Stu Bickel at forward
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The big news out of practice today was that Brandon Dubinsky was on the ice in a non-contact jersey. This is great news for the Rangers, who have been missing Dubinsky since he went down with his lower body injury. Dubinsky has been sorely missed on the penalty kill, as evidenced last game when Brian Boyle took a penalty, and Derek Stepan was forced to kill the penalty. Of course, the end result was a Devil’s goal.
There is still no timetable for Dubinsky’s return, but the fact that he is skating is great news. Considering it was his leg that was an issue, him being able to be on the ice and moving around can only be seen as a good thing. He likely won’t play tomorrow, but if all goes well I’d assume he will be back sooner rather than later.
As for the lines from practice, there was one minor change, as Mike Rupp moved up to skate with Brian Boyle and Artem Anisimov. Ruslan Fedotenko, John Mitchell, and Brandon Prust were the fourth line.
During yesterday’s practice, Pat Leonard tweeted the lines that coach John Tortorella ran. These lines are likely to be the lines run tonight for Game Seven. Many called for Chris Kreider to move back up to a line with Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan, and they got their wish:
Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Mike Rupp-John Mitchell-Ruslan Fedotenko
The defensive pairings, as always, remained the same.
It’s good to see Kreider back up where many, including myself, think he belongs. That line has some great speed, skill, and tenacity and had great success when used earlier this series. The Rangers will need every weapon they have to win their second Game Seven in as many series.
It’s a bit of a slow day today. So here are some notes (in bullet point format) from practice, courtesy of Rick Carpiniello:
It is troubling to see that Dubinsky is still on crutches. Makes you wonder how long he is going to be out. At first I thought this could be connected to his stress fracture from last season, but that was on his left leg, not his right. So much for my theory. I still think Dubi plays again before this round is over. It’s the playoffs, he will do anything to get in the lineup.
When Chris Neil took out Brian Boyle with a questionable hit on Saturday night, he took out the Rangers most effective forward. He took out their leading scorer, top defensive forward, and top penalty killer in this series. He took out the only player that has managed to get under the skin of the Senators. It’s a big blow to the Rangers, and not a player easily replaced. The best the Rangers can do is find some sort of lineup option that maximizes the return of Carl Hagelin, and minimizes the departure of Boyle. This is no easy task.
Side note: Is it great for the depth of the team to say that Boyle has been the best forward, or is it a sign of weakness in the top six? Tough call there.
The good news, as mentioned above, is that Hagelin will be returning to the lineup tonight after serving his three game suspension for elbowing and concussing Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. The addition of Hagelin adds some much needed speed and puck possession to the lineup, which also helps minimize the negative effects of having their top defensive forward out of the lineup.
This leaves the Rangers with a few lineup options to consider for the game, and while none are perfect, they give the Rangers much needed flexibility.
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Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, you know that Carl Hagelin was suspended (questionably) for 3 games for elbowing Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson in the head during game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Due to this turn of events, the Rangers have lost a key cog in their top line, and one of their biggest speed/forechecking threats.
Chris Kreider was inserted into the lineup in Hagelin’s place for game 3 and acquitted himself well for a pro debut in the middle of a playoff series. By the third period, however, Torts felt that Kreider wasn’t ready to be that guy for the top line and inserted Derek Stepan. The question remains going into Game 4 on Wednesday, who is the right guy to take Hagelin’s spot on the top unit?
Let’s take a look at some possibilities…
- Ryan Callahan- Captain Cally does just about everything for the Rangers, so why not install him on the top line? He could be a huge boon to the forecheck and allow for Richards and Gabby a little more room to operate down low. He also has an unfailing nose for the net, and if those two can generate shots on goal, Cally is a good bet to bang in some rebounds.
- Brandon Dubinsky- Last season’s leading scorer, Dubi would seem to possess the skill set to complement the top line nicely. He has a decent set of hands and can bring some jam to a finesse unit. However, he has had trouble finding the back of the net this season, and has often looked lost between passing and shooting. But, who knows, maybe playing with talent like Gaborik and Richards is just the thing to light the fire under Dubi’s offensive game. Read more »
Per Andrew Gross, the Rangers have some good news in the injury department. Artem Anisimov was skating this morning at the optional skate. Although he is unlikely to play tonight, it’s a good sign to see him skating, it means his shoulder injury isn’t serious.
Along with Anisimov, Gross states that John Scott (unsurprisingly), Anton Stralman, and Jeff Woywitka will be the other scratches. Steve Eminger wasn’t on the ice for the Rangers, and Gross has said that he is unlikely to play.
The lines and pairings are what you would expect them to be:
In other good news, all the Rangers need is one point to clinch the playoffs. Sure, the division race is closer than we had hoped, but clinching a playoff spot this early is a step in the right direction.
The AHL Transaction Log does not have any call ups listed for the Rangers this morning, thus it is expected that Stu Bickel will again play forward on the fourth line with Mike Rupp and John Mitchell. Bickel played fairly well as a forward in yesterday’s 5-2 stomping of the Flyers. With Ruslan Fedotenko out indefinitely, Bickel has been a good short term solution. However, don’t expect him to play forward forever.
Update 10:45am: Eminger will not be playing tonight. The Rangers have decided to keep Stu Bickel in the lineup.
Original Post: In some good injury news, Steve Eminger has been activated off injured reserve and is likely to play today, according to Katie Strang. Eminger has been out since December 17 against Phoenix, when he separated his shoulder. Prior to the injury, Eminger had been playing top-four minutes while paired with Michael Del Zotto.
Eminger will likely play at the expense of rookie Stu Bickel, who was limited to just ten shifts and six minutes of ice time in the Rangers 1-0 win over the Sabres.
As speculated by myself yesterday and debated between myself and Chris today, defenseman Marc Staal will return to the lineup today for the Winter Classic. He will play on the third pairing with Stu Bickel. No word on who will sit, but my hunch is either Ryan McDonagh (flu) or Jeff Woywitka (healthy).
This is big news for the Rangers, who have been without Staal the entire season. Staal will see limited minutes, but it is great to see him back.