March 2007

Eric Duhatschek of the “Globe and Mail” is reporting that New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro is out indefinitely as a result of post-concussion syndrome due to the injury he suffered against the Montreal Canadiens a couple of weeks ago.  Duhatschek wrote that TSN reported that DiPietro failed a neurological exam.  While the Islanders admitted that DiPietro is out of tonight’s game against the New Jersey Devils, they have not released any information as to his long-term status.

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With Brendan Shanahan returning to the lineup against the team he last played against, the Rangers are getting close to having their full contingent of forwards back on the ice.  Granted while the wear and tear of the season means players like Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka and even Shanahan will not be at the mid-season peak, it still affords the Blueshirts their best chance to solidify their hold on a playoff spot.

It also means that Tom Renney and his staff will have to do some adjusting to reconfigure their lines.  Towards that end, allow me to chime in with my suggestions.

First off, I am going to admit it is a waste of my time to try and find a way to put Brandon Dubinsky in the lineup because it is not going to happen.  It seems that Renney and the Rangers have reached their quota on young players – why else would they sign a veteran defenseman who will not be eligible for the playoffs.  Oh yes, Jason Strudwick is the missing piece in that playoff puzzle.  Of course, David Liffiton could use the NHL experience in case Fedor Tyutin and Karel Rachunek are not ready for the playoffs, but we must mind the quota.

With Dubinsky out of the picture, that leaves Ryan Callahan as the token prospect among the forwards.  Once the full contingent is back, he is going to have to fend off Brad Isbister for playing time.  My bet is Isbister gets the call most nights unless Callahan can replicate his St. Patrick’s Day heroics.  However, this is one battle that I am going to win because Callahan gets my nod over Isbister.

Another point to consider is that Straka’s shoulder will likely keep him from playing center.  As a result, someone else must slide over to center.  Of course, if not for the quota, Dubinsky could have fit the bill.  However, it seems that the Rangers will be moving Sean Avery to center – a position he has played in the past.  Renney tweaked his “Irish Line” by replacing Matt Cullen with Shanahan.  This has the makings of a second line that score and belt the living daylights out of opposing defenseman on the forecheck.

Once Straka returns to the lineup, it is time to go “back to the Future” and reunite last season’s top line of Straka, Jagr and Michael Nylander.

The third line gets a bit dicey.  Cullen and Petr Prucha are a fine start to the third line, but there really isn’t a left winger that fits with them.  If Dubinsky were available, Cullen could shift to the wing or Avery could drop down with Dubinsky/Cullen moving up to the third line.

The LW on this line is going to depend on whether or not Colton Orr needs to be in the lineup.  According to Steve Zipay in his “Newsday” blog, James Dolan was agog and aghast that Orr was left out the lineup for the Flyers game on February 17 – the game where Shanahan suffered his horrifying concussion and the same game where Philadelphia returned to its “Broad Street Bullies” mentality.”  Zipay noted that Orr has played every game since.

On the nights that Orr is in the lineup, he should take Isbister’s spot in the lineup.  That leaved either Ryan Hollweg or Jed Ortmeyer moving up to the third line with the other forward skating with Orr and Blair Betts.

On the nights Orr would be out of the lineup, Isbister would skate on the third line with Hollweg, Betts and Ortmeyer forming a formidable checking line

The defensive pairings are pretty much a wash because the Rangers do not have too many options – especially with Liffiton returning to Hartford.  The one thing you can count on is that when Tyutin is ready to return to the lineup, the Rangers coaching staff will sit Thomas Pock as opposed to Strudwick – thus keeping the quota intact.

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Okay, it is now official.  The phrase “dreaded two-goal lead” is now synonymous with the Rangers much like  “diehard Rangers fan”.  For the third time in four games, the Blueshirts coughed up a two-goal lead and for the second time in less than a week they managed to allow two shorthanded goals in the process.

Tom Renney bemoaned the fact that theses things happen when you play forwards at the point – a reference to Matt Cullen being schooled by Jordan Staal on the first of the two shorthanded tallies by the Penguins.  What Renney fails to realize is that stupid decisions are what puts the Rangers in these types of situations.  With a two-goal lead, and the Rangers on the power polay, there was no need for Michal Rozsival to get caught of position.

Speaking of stupid decisions, as for Colby Armstrong’s goal, the only thing you can say is that Henrik Lunqvist vapor-locked.  He need to get out of his net quicker to stop the puck from getting near no-man’s land for goalie or just stay put in his net.  Then again, it took Armstrong’s Willie Mosconi-esque shot to pinball into the net.  It just goes to show you – when things are good well that puck bounces harmless away.  when things are going poorly, the red light goes off.

Props to Jaromir Jagr for stepping up during the shootout.  Granted, with Martin Straka and Brendan Shanahn out of the lineup, who else was going to take the shot – Colton Orr?  Actually, Jag’s attempt was the best of the night for the Rangers.  If he had lifted the puck just a little bit more, he would have beat Marc-Andre Fleury.

Saturday afternoon should bring back lots of memories as the St. Louis Blues hit the Garden in John Davidson’s return to the Big Apple.  One can only wonder what kinds of chants will be toosed around by the MSg faithful.  Glen Sather might want to consider heading out to Banff for the weekend.

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Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke lent some insight into his deadline doings by publishing a diary for “USA Today”. {}

One of the more interesting notes is that New York Rangers President/GM Glen Sather showed some interest in defenseman Shane O’Brien.  The significance of that interest is that Burke was looking to move O’Brien for a first round draft pick that he could use as trade bait elsewhere.  One has to wonder if Sather was willing, at some point, to move a first rounder pick for O’Brien or was he just looking for a bargain.

On February 20, Burke wrote that Sather told him he had “…a good offer for Aaron Ward from another team.”  This tidbit predates some of the articles that were written about the problems between Ward and captain Jaromir Jagr.  It also brings up a question of whether Sather wanted to include Ward in a package for O’Brien in his previous discussions with Burke.  There might be something to that idea because Burke did talk to the Los Angeles Kings about Mattias Norstrom, but the Southern California rivalry between the Ducks and Kings put the kibosh on those trade talks.

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