With visions of sugar-plums dancing in my head, and looking forward to a week of wrapping Christmas gifts and my annual 12-hour Biscotti Bake-athon, I take refuge in the New York Rangers. Rather than focusing on one or two topics, today I am taking a different approach by commenting on random ramblings.

Tim Erixon

The New York Rangers have recalled defenseman Tim Erixon as they heed Horace Greeley’s advice and head west for two games (St. Louis on Thursday and Phoenix on Saturday). It does set off some debate as to why Erixon was recalled. Andrew Gross of The Record offers the following scenarios:

1. It could mean the Rangers just want some in-case insurance since they’re traveling across the Mississippi.
2. (More likely) Steve Eminger’s left arm is a question mark after he blocked a second-period shot and went to the bench in pain during last night’s 1-0 loss to the Stars. Eminger came back for the third period and was on the ice for eight shifts over the final 20 minutes.
3. (Possible) Coach John Tortorella is not totally satisfied with play he’s receiving from third pair of Jeff Woywitka and Anton Stralman.
4. (Possible) Mike Sauer (concussion) is headed to injured reserve.

Since Marc Staal is listed on the Long-Term Injured Reserve list, the Rangers will not have to make any salary cap moves. The Rangers have placed Sauer on Injured Reserve due to the concussion he received on Dion Phaneuf’s hit. Is it possible that the Rangers placed Sauer on the injured list with an eye towards placing him LTIR and trying to open a little more salary cap space for a trade deadline deal.

On a side note, today has been a bad day for the NHL in terms of concussions as Milan Michalek, Joni Pitkanen and Jeffrey Skinner all join Sauer on the sidelines due to concussions.

Brandon Dubinsky

Speaking of the lineup, it might be time to give Brandon Dubinsky a break from the action. You can make as good a case for t sitting him down as you can for not giving him a game off. While Coach John Tortorella guards his lineup decisions with the same fervor as the United States guards Fort Knox, it might be time for Torts to open up a bit.

During his banter with the media today, let everyone know that Dubi will be sitting out the St. Louis game ONLY and strongly state that Dubinsky will be back in the lineup against Phoenix no matter what happens Thursday night. The explanation is that you want to give Dubi a chance to just sit back and clear his head. Heck, put headphones on him in the press box and let him stay in contact with Mike Sullivan on the bench – not a bad way for a struggling player to take a long – and different – look at the game.

If Sean Avery happens to have a whale of game (pun intended), then Torts has a pleasant lineup decision to make. If Avery doesn’t play well, then it is a case of no-harm, no-foul.

When Dubinsky is the lineup, I would tweak the lines a little bit. I would consider putting Dubi back with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, or at the very least flip him and Brian Boyle so that Dubinsky can skate with Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell – which might be the best idea because it will force Dubinsky to concentrate on his skating to keep up with the speedy wingers.

Brave New NHL

All of the beat writers have been hammering home the lament that NHL fans will be “treated” to more ho-hum games like last night’s Ranger-Stars game thanks to the new balanced schedule. With less four-point games on the schedule, you are going to have more nights where both teams appear to be going through the motions as opposed to snatching two points from a division rival. Oops, I forgot in the new NHL there are no divisions – just conferences.

What is my take on the new NHL realignment? Let’s just say if there was a way for the NHL to screw up a good thing – they will. In 1994 the NHL was coming off the high of the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years. So what happens next – the NHL locks out the players and the 1994-195season doesn’t start until January 20, 1995.

After “learning” their lesson, a decade later the NHL becomes the first major pro sports league to cancel an entire season as the owners again lockout the players.

The only saving grace over the NHL realignment plan is that the CBA is up at the end of the year and the NHL will again lockout the players and during the subsequent down time cooler heads will prevail as the NHL goes back to its six divisions and two conferences.

Shoot the Puck … On Net

I am always amused when Ranger fans scream “Shoot” when the Blueshirts go into their “Sweet Georgia Brown” power play. What fans forget to add to the “Shoot” yell is “on net”. I understand that there are times when a player has to shoot wide in order to prevent a blocked shot and a breakaway the other way. Heck, in those buildings with lively dasher boards, it is often a good strategy.

No, I am talking about when a Ranger has a relatively clear shot and just shoots wide as he is trying to put the puck through the goalie or as if he is trying to pick corners.

While fans are quick to put the hammer down on Michael Del Zotto for doing that (especially when his shots go wide of the net and start flying out to the neutral zone on sharp angle shots), it is a team-wide affliction that creeps far too often.

Perhaps the Rangers need to adapt a Brylcreem attitude toward their shots – “a little dab’ll do ya”. Sometimes it better to sacrifice some MPHs for accuracy.

Torts and His Line Changes

Funny, I don’t remember fans complaining too much about line juggling back during the 1993-1994 when Mike Keenan employed the “RW du jour” approach when it came to finding a match for Adam Graves and Mark Messier. I think I remember John Davidson taking a shift or two amid the likes of Tony Amonte, Glenn Anderson, Mike Gartner, Alexei Kovalev, Steve Larmer and a cast of thousands.

I also don’t hear too many Penguin fans complaining that Dan Bylsma juggles his lines to optimize the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. By the way, is it me or shouldn’t Bylsma endorse Brylcreem?

The Rangers do not struggle to score because Tortorella juggles his lines. Rather, he juggles his lines when the Rangers are not scoring.

Just In case …

I don’t get the opportunity to post another Ranger Ramblings before the holidays hit, please let me take this opportunity to wish everyone the very best during this Christmas and Hanukkah season. May everyone’s holiday be merry, happy and safe and here is to a great 2012 – one that is capped off with Gary Bettman saying, “Captain Ryan Callahan, come get the Stanley Cup!”

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