I still can’t get used to Alain Vigneault’s steady line combinations after four years of John Tortorella’s incessant juggling, but Vigneault has stuck with the same combinations for quite some time now. It’s worth nothing that the Rangers finally turned a corner this season thanks in no small part to the team’s balance and chemistry up front. Mats Zuccarello has been the team’s best forward so far this season and a key cog in Vigneault’s formula, but with him lost for likely another week or two (not to mention the upcoming trade deadline), Vigneault will be forced to rejigger his preferred trios.
Throw in the fact that winger Derek Dorsett is ready to return from a broken fibula and 20-year-old J.T. Miller, who has been dominant in the AHL, was recalled last night, and it’s tough to predict what Vigneault will end up with. It’s probably most likely that Vigneault will be forced to try several different new looks – which might not be settled by the trade deadline in three games, throwing us back to square one.
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In injury news, Derek Dorsett is skating in a non-contact jersey, and hopes to be ready when the season resumes next week. Dorsett has missed 17 games with a broken leg suffered against Pittsburgh on January 3.
Also, per Steve Zipay, the Rangers –who practiced yesterday– will have practice today, tomorrow, and Monday through Wednesday. The Olympians will rejoin the team on Wednesday for a full team practice.
Derek Dorsett could be a difference maker (Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America)
The Rangers facd the toughest possible opponent tonight. When an elite team like the Blues head to town fresh off a mauling, they will be conscious of stopping the rot before it starts. This will be a great benchmark game for the Rangers. Can they go toe to toe with a contender? Can they put behind them their own disappointing game? Tonight’s game is the definition of a character test.
Kevin Klein’s arrival meant the end of Michael Del Zotto, but does it also signal the end of Anton Stralman? Stralman is reported to be looking for $3 million plus at season’s end, despite being distinctly average for the most of this year. Would the Rangers be willing to lock up what are essentially two third pair guys for what would be $3 million each?
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Per John Giannone on the MSG broadcast, winger Derek Dorsett will not return to tonight’s game. Dorsett injured himself blocking a shot while killing a penalty in the first period.
When healthy, Derek Dorsett has been everything the Rangers hoped for
Like many parts of the 2013-2014 roster, the bottom-six forwards have struggled through long stretches of the season thus far. Part of that can be attributed to players being used out of place and in unusual situations, but the team hasn’t gotten consistent play out of many of its depth forwards for most of the year. That seems to be changing over the last few weeks, and has been as instrumental to the team’s mini turnaround as anything else.
Boyle will forever be a polarizing player amongst Ranger fans because he has hands of stone and doesn’t drive opponents through the boards with his massive size. You can’t really judge Boyle fairly until you accept those two facts of life, which many refuse to do. But Boyle is a very useful player in many other areas. Though this hasn’t been his finest year, Boyle is still being relied on as the team’s top defensive forward, plays well on the penalty kill, is the best faceoff man on the team and drives possession. He is guilty of being a passenger at times this season the same as nearly every player on the roster, but for the most part, Boyle has been use usual steady self. Still, scoring just one goal all year is pretty hard to do.
Grade: B Read more »
Update: Per Pat Leonard, Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot will be scratched tonight. Dorsett and Arron Asham will dress in their place.
Per Steve Zipay, Derek Dorsett (wrist) was back on the ice for this morning’s skate. Dorsett has been nursing this wrist issue for a while, and the Rangers could really use his spunk back in the lineup.
Marc Staal was not on the ice, as expected. He is suffering from “issues” that may or may not be concussion related.
The team is calling it a neck issue for now. (Update: It’s a concussion)
Per the Rangers Twitter feed, Derek Dorsett will be out tonight with a lingering wrist issue. Taylor Pyatt will return to the lineup in Dorsett’s place. Also, AV noted an unspecified defenseman is banged up and the defensemen will be a game time decision. We can speculate all we want, but we know it isn’t John Moore that is banged up, since AV confirmed he will return tonight. If the unspecified defenseman is good to go, then I assume Justin Falk, who barely played in the third period last game, will be the healthy scratch.
That’s not really a fair title to Derek Dorsett, who could surely care less what Brandon Prust did in New York before Dorsett’s arrival. But fair or not, “Brandon Prust 2.0″ is how Dorsett was billed when he arrived in the Marian Gaborik blockbuster last spring, so Prust is the player Dorsett will forever be compared to in the eyes of Rangers fans.
Prust’s game has changed a bit over the last two seasons due to injuries, but at his best with the Rangers he was relentless on the forecheck, a willing combatant, a reliable penalty killer and one of New York’s most important energy guys.
Dorsett has settled in nicely this year and has filled an almost identical role. Like Prust, Dorsett has been a terrific forechecker, a dependable penalty killer, and a trusted player in his own end (just 38% of his shifts have started in the attack zone). And if fighting is your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that Dorsett has five majors this season, second in the league. Perhaps the greatest difference between the two is in the energy jolt they deliver to the lineup. This is an extremely subjective observation, but it seems that even though Dorsett goes all out every night, he hasn’t yet displayed the same penchant for shaking his team awake that Prust once did.
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A bounce-back season from Brad Richards would be a huge boost for the Rangers
Best case: Asham continues to provide comedic relief on Twitter and plays in a handful of games with the Blueshirts.
Worst case: New York is unable to find a taker for Asham on waivers and he spends the final year of his contract in Hartford.
Best case: The former fourth-overall pick puts it all together as a Blueshirt and records a 20-goal season.
Worst case: The Rangers learn why Pouliot has already played for four teams in his young career and the big forward is invisible most nights. Read more »
A lack of depth up front was New York’s Achilles’ heels this season
As former coach John Tortorella repeatedly mentioned, New York’s depth up front was gutted during the summer of 2012 following the trade of Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov and the free agent departures of Brandon Prust, John Mitchell and Ruslan Fedotenko. The Rangers struggled mightily to replace that depth all season, but had a difficult time doing so in part due to injuries and inexperience. As a result, Tortorella was left with very few reliable forwards and it showed throughout the 2013 campaign.
It was a very disappointing regular season for Boyle, who was an occasional healthy scratch and never regained coach John Totorella’s trust. However, in the playoffs Boyle was one of the best, most consistent Rangers, scoring three goals and finally using his big body along the boards and in front. Boyle admitted to being extremely frustrated by his performance this year, which he blamed partially on his decision not to play during the lockout. He wasn’t the only Blueshirt that was negatively affected by that decision, but it may offer hope for a return to form next year.
Grade: C- Read more »