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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