Avery statement retracted

A very interesting tidbit today from Toronto. The FAN590, who (along with Howard Berger) broke the story about Sean Avery allegedly commenting on Jason Blake's cancer, will retract their statement publicly on-air this weekend.

Avery served the radio station and Berger with a notice of libel and rather than be taken to court, they decided to retract the story.

For journalism, this is particularly interesting. Typically in these cases, the journalist/media source go to the grave with their story, don't admit an error, and furthermore go to court. This both shows their commitment to their sources, but also the confidence in their stories therefore exemplifying their legitimacy.

Since the beginning of this debacle I had been intrigued because of the journalism aspect of it. Turns out that I was right: Berger was dead wrong.

He said, shortly after the accusation, that he stands by his story. That's no longer the case. He and his media source admitted wrong and now every source that Berger tries to get and every story he writes will have a certain amount of taint to it.

I think the media is a wonderful opportunity for both the fans and the truth. Unfortunately, it has become political and less-objective over the years and no longer serves as the watchdog that it once did. It is cases like this that exemplify the worst in the media and of course it is glorified.

How much will Berger be vilified? Time will tell, but I will certainly look at his pieces a little differently from now on...
(photo from NY Post Blog)

Rangers v. Islanders, 7 p.m.

In the fourth meeting of the season, the Rangers will host the Islanders in hopes of finally taking a game from them. The Islanders have defeated the Rangers all three times this season, all by one goal.

The Rangers will be without the services of Sean Avery, who is out indefinitely following a wrist surgery today. The lines are as follows:
Straka - Dubinsky - Jagr
Hossa - Gomez - Shanahan
Prucha - Drury - Callahan
Orr - Betts - Hollweg

Nothing too crazy there, though I thought Hossa would be on the third line. Marek Malik is also well enough to play, but is being kept as a healthy scratch so as to not mess with the chemistry.

The Islanders are playing their third game in four nights, after a shootout win last night against Ottawa (3-2) and an overtime win against Dallas on Monday (3-2). This means one of two things: 1. The Islanders are confident and rolling. 2. They have played an exhaustive amount of minutes over the past four days and the Rangers should be able to capitalize.

Maybe it's a bit of both, but the Rangers need this one. We stressed the importance of the previous game and this is even more significant. If the Rangers fall 0 - 4 to the Islanders, the best they can do is tie the series. Not only does that have psychological impact, but in the standings it makes a difference.

It's going to be a tough one and the Rangers will really need to step up without Avery. Expect a big game from the second and third lines. Both Gomez and Drury have really begun to step it up and this could finally be a breakout game.

More to come...

If you're in the Long Island area, come catch me for tonight's game at Rookies in Huntington, NY.

Avery out at least a week

According to Steve Zipay at Newsday, Sean Avery will miss tomorrow's Islanders game plus a week or two to rectify a nagging wrist injury. Avery, who missed significant time earlier in the season due to a shoulder problem, was a huge reason for the Rangers' turnaround of late. How will his absence affect the game?

Right now, it's tight conversation. There is the possibility of Hossa playing with Shanahan and Gomez, as well as Callahan. More when it's available...

Lineup Rumblings

As discussed here, and damn near everywhere at this point, the Rangers have a major (but good) roster problem now that Callahan and Straka, yes even Malik, are ready. As it seems based on yesterday's practice, the line combinations are the following:
Straka - Dubinsky - Jagr
Avery - Gomez - Shanahan
Callahan - Drury - Prucha
Hollweg - Betts - Orr

It seems that Hossa is the odd man out, which is not a terrible thing. He hasn't performed that well, despite being a decent penalty-killer. This really made me think, what function does Hossa really serve at this point? Perhaps, keeping him around is incentive to sign his brother in the off-season.

But I digress.

Another interesting roster tidbit appeared yesterday in a Czech paper that interviewed Jagr. While the interpretations were all over the place as far as whether he is still happy here or not, (Dubi at Blueshirt had a more positive approach) the roots of it is that the Rangers have yet to speak with him about a contract extension and he feels a bit slighted having to play with Dubinsky. Now, he likes Dubinsky and thinks he has played well and worked hard, but as he put it "we spent a ton of money on centers, and I have to play with the kid from the farm."

I completely agree.

I think that Jagr and Drury need time to mesh. As Jagr agreed, the two were never given a fair shake. If this team wants to go far, they need Drury in a top position.

However, less immediately is the intention for the Rangers in the long term. If Jagr doesn't reach his performance clause, for all intents and purposes, he is an unrestricted free agent. Could this be Jagr's last year in New York?

I doubt it, but if it is true, then do you trade him for value now or use him in hopes of winning it all?

The argument has good sides on each end.

The final piece to this upside down puzzle is how Malik, a shoe-in roster spot before and during his injury, now doesn't seem to have a place in the lineup.

Renney admitted that he is hesitant to mess with the chemistry now and it may take an injury or poor performance before he gets back in.

Bottom line: Renney loves Staal with Rozsival.

And he is right to love him. In added minutes, Staal has shown himself as a top-tier defenseman. So what do the Rangers do?

I still maintain that a deal is imminent.

By taking Hossa (if there isn't a conspiracy theory there), Montoya, and Malik in a package, you can bring back a top tier forward or defenseman. I would have preferred the latter, but it seems at this point that the Rangers are almost best served by a top-flight winger.

It should get interesting in the coming days, but I'd be shocked if the Rangers stood pat at this point. Islanders' preview to come...

We're back baby!
(photo from Canada.com)

Dallas 3 Rangers 2

It was an interesting night at MSG. By now most of you have read the game reports, so I'll spare you those details. However, being that I actually worked the game, I can lend a little insight into the players and what went on at ice level.

First off, the Rangers really are classy and top-notch at this stuff. Perhaps not the same "homey" feeling that the Devils have, but with all the media attention, they really know how to handle it.

The game itself was pretty good for about two-thirds. The Rangers played well, didn't finish, but worked hard and most importantly out-worked Dallas along the boards. The shot total also didn't hurt.

However, a goal that Lundqvist probably would have liked back, kept the game even after one. Not terrible. The feeling down low was positive amongst the media and the players. Gomez was very positive and upbeat despite his blown play.

Then came the second, again a better period, but not finishing. The power play has really become burdensome at this point. Even worse is that Renney has the defense jumping into the play and standing up at the blueline, but three goals in the past two games have come from the defense being flat-footed.

The third just saw the Rangers fall flat on their faces and Dallas come out strong. The Rangers never really sustained any pressure and the frustration was felt throughout the Garden.

A few leftover notes and quotes that you may NOT have seen or heard:
Jaromir Jagr - very calm and generic responses, while he seemed frustrated, it was almost a loss for explanation more than anything. "We got our chances, but couldn't finish...We cycled well and created opportunities..."
Sean Avery - blunt, to the point, and noticeably upset. "What would I change about the game? The name on my jersey... The powerplay is all about work ethic and right now there are some guys that are not working hard and I think we're all comfortable standing here and saying that and who they are..."

Drury, Gomez, and the majority of the Rangers really bounced into the showers quick, evading the media and nobody came back out to talk. Very interesting...

More quotes later when I finish transcribing...

Florida Recap

In preparation for covering tomorrow's Rangers vs. Dallas game (more on that later) not much time to blog. However, a few good things are going on with the Rangers, with a few not so good things mixed in.

For starters, defeating Tampa Bay and gaining a point against Florida is a solid trip point-wise. At the same time, the Rangers are still lacking that cohesiveness. What's scary is that they have yet to really have a complete game on all cylinders and are atop the division.

While Shanahan, Avery, and Gomez continue to excel, Jagr seems lost and frustrated. Similarly with Drury. Perhaps Straka back in the swing will help this out. Do the Rangers make a move now that Callahan and Straka are back? I certainly think it's plausible.

The goaltending tandem is solid, no question about it. Valiquette and Lundqvist are a nice complementary pairing and will remain that way.

New York continues to play tight in 1-goal games, which is great for the stretch. Yet, we have yet to really see them explode and dominate offensively. I think Head Coach Tom Renney can be attributed to that. I continue to be a bit critical of the coach for the mere reason that he continues to juggle lines and specialty teams combo, but isn't giving enough time to each combination. The power play was improving, then he changed the lines and is now just working with his first two forward lines for the most part. Not a bad move to gain confidence, but one step at a time.

Drury needs to fit on that first line, if Jagr can't work then he needs to be put on the third line. I know that people will question that, but he is aging and needs a new look. Dubinsky, Prucha and Jagr would make an outstanding third line. That leaves Drury, Straka and Callahan on the first. Does Renney have the gall to make such a move?

Which brings us to Marcel Hossa. Unfortunately, it seems that the battle for spots will be between Prucha and Hossa. This is unfair because Hossa plays namely on the first line and really has underachieved, or in all actuality played at the level that he is capable of. Prucha hasn't had that chance. In my estimation, Hossa goes, Prucha stays.

As for tomorrow, I will be doing some press work with the Rangers and should have the opportunity to be in the locker room for post game. I will share comments and quotes tomorrow night.

Wish me luck...

Rangers at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.

Well, the Islander game was finally cause for a shakeup in lines. First and foremost, Nigel Dawes was sent down to Hartford because of , what Head Coach Tom Renney called, "inconsistency." While he was upset by this, the move is a partial precursor to Martin Straka and Ryan Callahan's return by Sunday.

Perhaps more interesting is that Michal Rozsival is not playing tonight. He claimed that it was due to a recurring knee issue that he hasn't rested, but I don't buy it. The leading scorer on a top defensive pair is out now because of a recurring knee issue? Very skeptical. So in his place, is Ivan Baranka, the rookie from Hartford. Both he and Greg Moore will get their first starts in the lineup. Henrik Lundqvist will start. Here are the expected line combos:

Drury - Dubinsky - Jagr
Avery - Gomez - Shanahan
Hossa - Moore - Prucha
Orr - Betts - Hollweg

Tyutin - Girardi
Mara - Staal
Strudwick - Baranka

Should be an interesting ride. More to come...

Islanders 2 Rangers 1

I was trying to hold this post off, as I was going to write it last night, to avoid emotion. I have tried to remain objective here and ,while never admitting to being anything other than a Ranger fan, have tried to present the positive and negative on both sides.

Perhaps that's my journalism background meshing with my "fan-dom."

However, even in journalism, there comes a point in which a column or story lends itself to emotion and biased reporting. This time, is now.

The Rangers fell to the Islanders , again, last night at MSG 2 -1. Riding a five-game winning streak, both overall and at home, the Rangers seemed destined to finally put up a good contest to their crosstown rivals. Everyone and their mother had this pegged to be an outstanding display of hockey and effort on both sides.

Bottom line: it wasn't.

I knew that I was even further disappointed when Rangers radio analyst Dave Maloney came on with John Giannone after the second period and said how great and intense of a game it was. Yes there was hitting. Yes there was fighting. Yes there were penalties and cheap shots.

But the Rangers played like garbage.

This was not a renewal of the 70's rivalry as he put it. This was not a display of anything other than penalties, missed opportunities and one team badly outworking the other.

Amazingly, it was still merely a one goal game. So what does that tell us? As I tell my youth hockey kids that I coach, you need to play every shift hard and all three periods and the Rangers didn't do that. They were lax, lazy, uninterested and blew every opportunity to shoot.

For examples see Marcel Hossa, Jaromir Jagr and Sean Avery.

This is a good Ranger team that lacks the ability to get up for a big game and dominate. Not because they can't, but because they don't care. The Islanders are a prime example of a team that ,conversely, knows when to put the pedal to the metal.

Islanders' Head Coach Ted Nolan out coached Tom Renney. There was a better system in place and the Rangers couldn't get past their own blueline. The special teams were better and the Rangers didn't have one quality opportunity.

There was no breakout at all by the Rangers let alone a transition game. Henrik Lundqvist played well, but even he didn't look settled.

The Rangers are a team of high expectations; the highest expectations. If they are going to succeed there needs to be a bigger commitment to this season. They have floundered in back-to-back games (lack of conditioning), they have yet to really dominate a full 60 minutes (lack of focus) and they have yet to come together on the ice as a team. There have been sparks, but this smoke has yet to catch fire.

It's not the end of the world, but it is a good look at it.

Give the Islanders credit, they provided a model example of what a hard working, cohesive team is all about...

Rangers vs. Islanders, 7 p.m.

The Rangers are on a five-game winning streak. The Islanders are 5 - 2 in their last seven. However, the Islanders have defeated the Rangers in their first two meetings. Needless to say, this is a monumental game, despite the date.

The first place team in the Rangers have been stellar of late as their special teams and line combinations have been able to jell. How important was that impeccable start by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist? Now that the team is rolling, you are starting to see what damage they can do with a lethal goalie, team defense and exceptional offense.

Where do concerns still lie? While I am a pessimist at heart, I try to remain realistic. Right now, the Rangers are playing well, but these line combinations are not going to stick. Yes, the second line most likely will. There is no reason to touch Shanahan, Avery, and Gomez. However, when injuries heal who goes where?

Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha, Marcel Hossa, and Brandon Dubinsky are all on the hot seat, but they have played well enough to warrant staying.

If the Rangers want to truly compete they need to get Drury going on that top line. Straka is going to have to be there and Jagr is going to have to adapt. There isn't a reason to change now, but to have a legitimate shot, that's the way it's going to shake out.

Additionally, the Rangers defense is playing well, but are they steady enough to last over the long haul? With Malik coming back, do you place him lower and leave Staal? These are all questions that are going to need to be addressed in the next week.

As for tonight, it will be a hard fought game on both sides. The Islanders continue to have dominance over the Rangers this season, but the Rangers haven't faced them at home yet. This game could send both teams in interesting directions as they face difficult schedules in the next two weeks.

More later...

And we're back...

A little under the weather and very busy, but now it's time to get back to some Rangers hockey. The Rangers have been impressive as of late, in the midst of a four game winning streak, and atop the Atlantic Division. Last night, a 4 - 3 OT win against Pittsburgh, the Rangers saw all four goals come from the defense. Who would have thought?

Up front, the lines are starting to jell. The line of Avery - Gomez - Shanahan has begun to click and Jagr seems to really like Dubinsky. While Drury is still trying to be fit in, he has played well with Prucha and Dawes.

The Rangers have been scoring on multiple cylinders without giving up too much on defense. They also seem to have left the notion of not being able to win on the road behind, sweeping the road trip.

The rookies, Girardi, Dawes and Staal in particular, have stepped up and really haven't had those rookie mistakes. A testament to good coaching in Hartford and solid assimilation by Renney's squad.

Are the Rangers set for the season? Not yet. They are playing well, but they are going to have some questions to answer when Malik, Callahan, and Straka all return next week. Who sits? Do the Rangers make a move? It will be an interesting couple of weeks.

Either way, the Rangers are entertaining and Monday night's game against the Islanders will be very telling about whether they can finally put their crosstown rivals down.

More to come...

Rangers vs. Devils, 7 p.m.

A few pre-game notes. The lines are as follows:
Hossa - Dubinsky - Jagr
Avery - Gomez - Shanahan
Dawes - Drury - Prucha
Orr - Betts - Hollweg

The Rangers are playing well and tonight will be a good test. Can the Rangers put a struggling team in their place? Time will tell. Renney was putting together some interesting line combinations at practice, including Drury on wing with Gomez. However, given that Avery is not suspended, he stayed with the lines from practice. At the same time, is Drury a third line player? Is he best served there while Dubinsky and Hossa are on first? No. Ideally, the Rangers would have Drury up front and Straka back on wing when he returns.
Random Notes:

  • Valiquette silenced the critics when he shutdown Toronto so any Ranger rumblings about a backup should dissipate.
  • I would be remiss not to mention the Avery debacle, though I have more on that below, and I think the NHL got it dead wrong. While pre-game altercations are entertaining, obviously the league doesn't want them. However, Avery goaded and yelled at Tucker. That is not an offense. Did he push a little? Yes. But so did Blake and he didn't get any punishment. Additionally, Campbell said he took into account the pre-game antics prior to the Devil game. If it wasn't punishable then, how is it punishable after the fact? To then penalize Avery more than Tucker is a travesty. Tucker used his stick as a weapon, which Avery did not, and then threatened Avery near his head with it. If the league is looking to eliminate stick work, these bush league tactics shouldn't be tolerated. If you choose to use your stick as a means of intimidation, you have no place in the game.
  • Can the Devils gain some momentum after their win against Pittsburgh? With Brodeur going for 500, I should think so.
  • Elias seems to be off the snide as does Gionta. Both players should start leading the way for New Jersey.
  • Karel Rachunek is back and provided some nice work in the previous game. How will he fare against his former team? If he can keep play simple, he should be effective.
  • I really like Brent Sutter's philosophies. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy and has transformed this team despite what his players, and former systems, demanded. They have become entertaining and are trusting Marty with the defense while they handle the offense. Who would have thought the Rangers would be the trapping team tonight?
I think this game is destined for overtime with the Rangers probably not faring well. Not to say they don't play well, but Gomez coming back, Avery on the edge, and Marty going for 500 is not looking in the Rangers' favor. One more quick note about the media. As a former collegiate journalist and current part-time writer, I have a few enlightened opinions about the Avery incident:
This Sean Avery thing has really disheartened me about the print media and the direction it is taking. I read Howard Berger's blog daily and he is typically a strong and informed writer. However, I really think he did some wrong here. Knowing the importance of quotes and what is printed, this incident with Avery was really poor journalism. First, the game happened on Saturday and he broke the story more than 24 hours later about the alleged cancer comments. This, of course, made the Post in NY and Toronto papers prompting action from the league and media. How do you print a quote not knowing who it is from? Maybe on inner circles he told people who or knows who, but the printed response is that he heard it in the locker room, but wasn't sure who. That is poor journalism. He claims he asked around and tried to delve into the story, but all of this with Rangers' players more than a day after the game? If I would have pulled that in college I would have been fired let alone in the paying real world. Jason Blake, always a classy guy, defended Avery, said he wasn't sure what was said and even further that Avery is effective in the role he plays. If Blake didn't hear it, who the heck did? Of course, the Rangers captains tight-lipped and said nothing was said and nobody in the locker room would say anything like that. And that came from Jagr's mouth! So days after what do we have? A couple of fines, no real news, a false accusation, and a whole lot of media attention for Howard. I am really disappointed.

On a side note, catch my latest Q&A with Jeremy Kenter of Devils' Daily...

Sean Avery and Darcy Tucker Pregame Scrum

On The Road Again

Both the Rangers and I are on busy schedules right now, but here are a few things to ponder. First, Sean Avery is in Toronto today for a hearing regarding the pre-game scrum that I'm sure everyone has seen at this point. The question is whether he insulted Jason Blake regarding his leukemia. Remember recently that Avery had a few things to say about French Canadians as well. I doubt he did it because Blake skated over while Avery and Darcy Tucker were already engaged and gave Avery a bump. Avery pushed back and Tucker swung a stick.

What I am questioning is how Tucker is allowed to use his stick to hit Avery, twice, and threated him as if it were a knife to his chin.

Nonetheless, it makes for interesting theater.

The Rangers, in getting their first road win of the season, got a very important boost from their backup goaltender. Stephen Valiquette played well and didn't have a chance on either goal, settling his case for his role on this team. He is an effective and cap-friendly goalie.

As the Rangers continue to gain momentum , or traction as Head Coach Tom Renney refers to it, I still wonder about the line combinations. Is Chris Drury really best served on the third line? He admitted in pre-season that he has the most chemistry with Martin Straka. Wouldn't it make sense then to have the first line be Jagr - Drury - Straka? That may still be the case, but then why continue to hold off the Jagr-Drury combination?

I like Dubinsky, but if this team is going to make a legitimate run, Hossa and Dubinsky can not be first liners leading the way.

Which line combinations would you use?

Valiquette to start

According to multiple reports, back-up goaltender Stephen Valiquette will get the start tonight against Toronto. Henrik Lundqvist expressed a bit of fatigue to Goalie Coach Benoit Allaire and Head Coach Tom Renney, though he admitted he could go if necessary. This way, Lundqvist will get four days rest before back-to-back games against New Jersey and Philadelphia. More later...
(photo from hockeygoalies.org)

Rangers 4 Penguins 2

If this was Dan's keys to the game , I would have been dead on. Instead, we'll just say "told ya' so." The Rangers had a strong offensive breakout last night at MSG against the Penguins. Their powerplay scored twice, they held Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby at near-bay and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist finally got a bit of a rest back there.

The evening was also highlighted by Brandon Dubinsky's first NHL goal and Nigel Dawes' first NHL assist. (Coincidentally on the same play) Sean Avery also scored his first goal of the season and goaded Penguins' veteran Gary Roberts the whole night. Is this the turning point? Tomorrow in Toronto will be a nice test. However, some issues still need to be addressed. For instance...

- Chris Drury played third line last night. Though the line of Avery, Brendan Shanahan, and Scott Gomez worked, you can't put a player like that in such limited ice time.
- Should Jagr remain a first liner? Granted his talent calls for it (as does his contract), but Marcel Hossa and Dubinsky are not first line players. By playing them their, Drury is forced to a near checking role.
- When the injuries subside, who goes where? The Rangers are going to have plenty of issues of how to keep and who to sit when Ryan Callahan, Martin Straka, and Marek Malik return.

and finally...

- Marc Staal needs to stay in a top four pairing. He has played his best in extra ice time. Who goes where? Leave Tyutin and Girardi as number one, put Staal and either Malik and Rozsival as number two, and play the latter with Jason Strudwick. Yes, that means getting rid of Paul Mara. Aside from his salary, he loses himself in the defensive zone and doesn't contribute enough offensively to warrant his presence.

More to come...

Pre-game Notes: Rangers vs. Penguins, MSG

The Rangers take on Ranger-killer #1 tonight, Sidney Crosby, at the Garden. The Penguins are coming off a 3 - 1 loss last night to Philadelphia. Similarly, the Rangers are coming off a 3-2 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday night.

Both teams are actually strikingly opposite. The Penguins are a high powered offense led by Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Erik Christiansen. However, their goaltending is questionable. Conversely, the Rangers have struggled offensively all season, but Henrik Lundqvist has established himself as the top goaltender in the league. Both teams sport good defensive systems, but not much defensive depth.

What will it take for the Rangers tonight? Aside from containing the big guns, the Rangers need to pepper the Penguin goalie, likely Danny Sabourin, with shots. The Rangers could not muster many shots Tuesday night nor could they score. Though the Sabourin has played well, he hasn't faced the magnitude of MSG and that can get to any rookie. If Marc-Andre Fleury plays, the Rangers will need to get to him early. With his confidence already in question, the last thing the Penguins want is to have him unable to establish himself early.

The Rangers should take this game, though should is always an interesting word with the Rangers. I think that with the lag of Tuesday night behind them, this rested squad is ready for the breakout we've all been waiting for. The puck movement for the Rangers has been steadily better over the past two weeks and tonight is an open enough team to really test it.

More later...

Back-to-Back Review

Someone needs to tell Jim Ramsay to up the fitness level of the Rangers. After a stellar 2 - 0 win against Philadelphia on Monday, the Rangers fell asleep last night at the Coliseum. Despite a 50/50 crowd of Rangers and Islanders fans, the Rangers failed to do anything really right.

However, we can dwell on the negative in a moment because Monday showed a lot of positives. First and foremost is the continued outstanding play of Henrik Lundqvist. He has established himself as the premier goalie in the league and even in last night's loss, the Rangers have Henk to thank for keeping it close.

Secondly, the power play and overall puck movement of the Rangers is really improving. They are beginning to jell and could be on the verge of something exciting. Unfortunately, I can't see where Gomez on the third line and Dubinsky on the first would maximize the offense. Renney seems to feel that the Gomez and Drury experiments were failures, which I feel they just weren't given their due time.

Finally, the defense has solidified, starting with Marc Staal. The rookie has found a niche and confidence in the first couple months here and it shows. Unfortunately, Paul Mara has continued to struggle in his own end and Michal Rozsival is truly lost without Marek Malik.

Now onto the negative, the Rangers lacked complete and utter effort last night. Tired and weary the Rangers may have played a 3 - 2 game, but in reality they never established any pressure and were on their heels the entire night. Are they out of shape? Maybe. Was it a lot of games in a few amount of days? Yes, but no excuses. If you can't get up for a rival like that, then there's a bigger problem.

Give the Islanders credit, they played well, their team has jelled nicely, but in reality, if the Rangers had held on to a lead in the third, they would have lost a very sorry game. When you are opposing a team that can't even break out of their zone or cover a man in front, there is equally an issue. I likened last night to chickens with their heads cut off. The Rangers were lost.

Not to fear though, it is only one game. Despite losing to your biggest foe, the points matter most and the Rangers need two against Pittsburgh tomorrow night. Henrik Lundqvist will start again and my guess is that Stephen Valiquette will start Saturday in Toronto.

More to come plus the winner of last week's contest...
(photo from NewYorkRangers.com)

Pre-game Notes: Rangers vs. Flyers on Versus

A few quick hits from around the Rangers:

  • Jaromir Jagr is questionable tonight with a groin strain
  • Greg Moore was called up from Hartford in the event Jagr can't go
  • Henrik Lundqvist will start tonight after being named Second Star of the Week, but Stephen Valiquette may get his first start of the season tomorrow night depending on how it goes tonight
  • Both Ryan Callahan and Martin Straka are expected to start skating on Thursday
More to come...

Rangers 2 Devils 1 (SO)

"It was a bittersweet symphony..." Never has a song been so apt as that to describe the Ranger game last night. Yes they won. Yes it was in glorious Lundqvist-savior fashion. Who doesn't love the shootout? (Other than me of course) The Rangers had their chances and were really led by the strong play of the rookies, including a shootout that featured Marcel Hossa, Petr Prucha, and Nigel Dawes.

Most of the night was played in their own end, with the occasional offensive spurt, but there wasn't much testing of Martin Brodeur. They started out strong and fell off considerably as the Devils really played like a desperate and driven team. Though the Rangers lacked that hard effort that had kept them in games over the past week, Lundqvist was the only reason this game was close.

Despite playing the night before, the Devils were first to pucks, were much better in the neutral zone and showed just how passing should be done. Unfortunately for the Rangers, there was a lot of miscommunication, missed assignments, and poor positioning.

However, the Rangers can't all be faulted for this because Head Coach Tom Renney really caused the uproar. I am a huge Renney supporter and have been wary to question him because of his intricacies and knowledge of how his team operates. But with two wins in the last three games, why would you drastically change lines that were just starting to jell? Jagr was lost with Brandon Dubinsky. The Drury - Shanahan - Dawes line was OK, and the Avery - Gomez - Prucha line didn't see as much ice time as they should of. Why, in this crazy search for chemistry, would you change what was fairly working?

I understand his reasoning for wanting to give the Devils a different look, but in this early season, playing together is much more valuable down the stretch than playing for the individual game.

Nonetheless, you could see the defensive instability (particularly by Michal Rozsival) when Marek Malik is absent from the lineup. Marc Staal is starting to gain some momentum and confidence as he made some rushes up ice. Also, you are starting to really see the integral role that Jason Strudwick is playing because he is vocal both on and off the ice and is a stabling force.

My final comment about last night is the officiating. I try not to bash or question officials because they have a difficult job and overall do a nice job. However, I can't condone the officiating of last night. The game began hard with no penalties then all of the sudden, multiple penalties were called with most of them being questionable at best. The back check of Gomez in-particular was one of the worst calls I've ever seen. You are supposed to lift a player's stick. The flow of the game and entertaining value that it had was severely compromised because of the inconsistent officiating. If the NHL allows the referees to dictate games, as has become the case with MLB, NFL, and NBA, the game will suffer awfully.

Weekly Contest

Only the Dark Ranger is on the contest now with a very thorough answer. Will anyone challenge? Click the link on the right or leave a comment!

(Photo from rangerland.net)

What a week!

Who would have thought that last night I would have been working the Devils game with Stan Fischler? Though I hate missing out on blog time, this new opportunity has arisen for me to work with the Maven! Quite a thrill. Last night I ended up rubbing shoulders with the Devils crew and even got in some post game interviews from the locker room! This will eventually lead to me being able to work some of the Ranger games from the locker room as well.

But enough about my dreams coming true. The Rangers have a big game tonight against New Jersey and although the Devils had a rough first two periods last night, they came out on top and in talking to the players, believe me they know what is in store for tonight.

Meanwhile, the Rangers have been playing better. Now that Chris Drury is going a bit, it's time for Scott Gomez to put up some points, which I think he will do tonight. Marek Malik is out, Dan Girardi is a game-time decision, but Sean Avery is back.

The lineup will look like:
Hossa - Gomez - Jagr
Dawes - Drury - Shanahan
Avery - Dubinsky - Prucha
Orr - Betts - Hollweg

Staal - Rozsival
Girardi - Tyutin
Mara - Strudwick

Also, last night at the Devils post-game press conference, Head Coach Brent Sutter said that Martin Brodeur would be playing, though his words could have been interpreted as "not wanting to change" meaning the schedule of rotation between Brodeur and Kevin Weekes. It will be interesting to see, though I have to disagree with Weinman and Zipay and think that Brodeur will actually see the start.

Big things to come from the Garden tonight, more after the game...