Yesterday when I was writing about the Rangers acquisition of Sean Avery, I began trying to run some line combinations through the steel-trap that is my mind.  It seems that Tom Renney was running some line combinations as well.  From all indications, it appears there is a shakeup on the horizon for tonight’s crucial game (then again, at this point aren’t they all) against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The new line combinations look something like this:

Sean Avery-Michael Nylander-Brendan Shanahan
Marcel Hossa-Jason Krog-Jaromir Jagr
Martin Straka-Matt Cullen-Jed Ortmeyer
Petr Prucha-Blair Betts-Ryan Hollweg

I am trying to figure out what blackmail Hossa has on Renney and what Prucha ever did to piss Renney off.  Renney has constantly said that Prucha doesn’t need to score to play, yet when he doesn’t score Renney drops him down to the fourth line – not exactly the best way to utilize a 30 goal scorer.

I have come to accept that Hossa is a nice fourth-line player who could see some time on the third line, but to play him on the second line with Jaromir Jagr?  What gives?  Then again, when you have a free agent pickup as your second line center, why not play Hossa on the second line with Jagr.

I get the idea that Renney is going for with the line changes.  He is trying to get some balanced scoring throughout the lineup while trying to jump start Shanahan.  Both of these moves are exactly what Renney should be doing.  However, I think he could do a better job.

With the Rangers lacking a true number one center (Nylander is a solid number two center); the Blueshirts need to be a bit creative.  That is why I have put together two sets of options for the Rangers.  One includes recalling Ryan Callahan and actually giving him a chance to sink or swim in the deep end.  It is amazing that teams like the New Jersey Devils can do this and win yet the Rangers can’t find a way to do it at all.  The second option is a more conservative option that includes the players currently on the roster.

First up, the Callahan option.

Shanahan-Avery-Jagr
Straka-Nylander-Callahan
Prucha-Cullen-Ortmeyer
Hossa-Betts-Hollweg

The method to my madness with the first lines is to put the two big guns together and give them a player to ride shotgun for them.  Avery’s penchant for forechecking and willingness to due the dirty work might due the trick to setting up opportunities for Shanny and Jagr.

Slotting Callahan in with Straka and Nylander slows the Rangers to give the youngster every possible chance to succeed.  Opponents will spend more time watching Straka and Nylander and, hopefully, Callahan can thrive under the radar.  The beauty of this line is if you want to put a more veteran presence on the line for defensive purposes late in a game, you can slide Hollweg or Hossa on that line.

The other possibility is to slide Callahan to the third line and move Prucha up to the second.  However, Prucha, Cullen and Ortmeyer have shown some success together.

The fourth line gives the team a solid checking line that can stir up some trouble on the forecheck.  Heck, you could switch Hossa and Ortmeyer and try and recapture some of the magic the Rangers had with Hollweg, Ortmeyer and Dominic Moore.  Renney could be creative and dress Jason Krog instead of Betts if you want better skating or more scoring in the lineup.

With Callahan being recalled, the Rangers need to create a roster spot; therefore, say goodbye to Adam Hall.

Now let’s see what the lines would look like without Callahan.

Prucha-Straka-Jagr
Avery-Nylander-Shanahan
Cullen-Krog-Ortmeyer
Hossa-Betts-Hollweg

Interestingly enough, I also have Avery, Nylander and Shanahan together.  My original intent was to have Cullen or (gasp) Hossa for better balance, but I am hoping that this combination forces Nylander to shoot more – something that would go a long way in solving some of the offensive woes.  Nylander is too unselfish for his own good at times.

The first line carries a lot of offensive firepower, perhaps too much, because it is not going to give much defensive zone work.  If need be, Avery and Prucha can switch spots to balance out those lines.

While I would prefer to keep Krog in a fourth line spot, I think his skating is a better fit with Cullen and Ortmeyer or else you could switch Krog and Betts.

If you notice, I have not addressed any solutions to the Rangers’ problems on the blue line.  The problem is my plan would include recalling Ivan Baranka, but to do that a defenseman would have to go.  There is no way I want to waive any of the defensemen on the roster and I wouldn’t risk losing Thomas Pock or Karel Rachunek by trying to assign them to Hartford.

The best solution would involve looking to move one of the defensemen.  While Aaron Ward is first on the list, trading him would leave the Rangers defensive corps rather young with rookies Baranka and Daniel Girardi and the still developing Pock and Fedor Tyutin.  Unless I could get some decent value for Ward, I would reluctantly keep the status quo.  If Ward were dealt, then Baranka would be recalled and paired with either Michal Rozsival or Marek Malik in attempt to team a veteran with a younger blueliner.

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