The last time the Rangers had a 7 game losing streak, Tom Renney was the coach, Marek Malik was the scapegoat on defense, and Jaromir Jagr was captain. There is honestly no excuse for the Rangers to reach that mark again today. For the first time since the lockout, the Rangers are facing the Pittsburgh Penguins with significantly more talent in the lineup. Let’s look at the list of players who will be missing from the Penguins lineup for today’s 3PM EST game:
Sidney Crosby (Concussion)
Evgeni Malkin (Knee)
Chris Kunitz (Lower Body)
Mike Comrie (Hip)
Eric Tangradi (Concussion)
Dustin Jeffrey (Lower Body)
Arron Asham (Upper Body)
Mark Letestu (Knee)
Matt Cooke (Suspension)
Eric Godard (Suspension)
That would be their three top forwards, including two superstars, as well as seven other forwards who would be in the lineup if not for suspension/injury. Jordan Staal is centering two guys on the first line who have a combined total of 4 NHL goals over their careers. No excuses for the Rangers to lose this game, especially at home. Lets look at more game notes:
Quick Start- The Penguins are missing multiple players, including several key ones, and the ones that ARE in the lineup have to be physically and emotionally spent themselves. in case you’ve been living under a rock the past two days, the Penguins and Islanders played a game on Friday that resulted in 300 combined penalty minutes, 9 goals against the Penguins, and 3 total suspensions (Godard the only Penguin). By the end of the game, the Penguins had more coaches on the bench than players. The Penguins HAVE to be physically and emotionally spent. Thus, it’s extremely important for the Rangers to have a quick start to the game. They can not give the Penguins any momentum and reason to have life in their game. You might remember the game against the Capitals where the Rangers were similarly missing players. Despite losing, the Rangers were able to stay in the game, and as a result got a bounce to go their way and eventually went on their way to win in the shootout. The Rangers can not do what the Capitals did to us. We can not let the Penguins play close to our level. The first 20 minutes are going to be important for both teams. The Rangers need to come out overwhelming the Penguins right from the beginning.
Steve Eminger- After missing the past few games, Steve Eminger is finally being inserted into the lineup by Tortorella, this time being paired with Matt Gilroy. Michael Del Zotto is back to being out of the lineup, though Tortorella said the Rangers don’t plan on sending him down yet. I like the idea of pairing him with Gilroy on the third pairing. Playing with a veteran defensive minded guy like Eminger will allow him to pinch more, which is where most of his offense comes from. Though Eminger doesn’t do anything spectacular, perhaps he can make the subtle, simple decisions in the defensive zone that will calm the team down and lower the turnovers.
New Lines- Tortorella has completely revamped the forward lines for this game:
The most noticeable things here are Dubinsky being put with Prospal and Gaborik, Stepan moving to the wing, and Christensen being demoted to the fourth line. The first two are likely more experimental, but you have to think that the clock is ticking on Erik Christensen’s time with the Rangers.
Lundqvist is in goal once again, though they really shouldn’t need him to be anything more than adequate. The Rangers haven’t beaten the Penguins at MSG in regulation in a long time. This is as easy of an opportunity as there ever will be to break that streak as well as their current losing streak. The Rangers are more or less healthy and are playing at home against a Penguins team missing half of their lineup and coming off a horrible loss against one of the worst teams in the league. This is simply a game the Rangers absolutely have to and should win, no excuses.
Make sure to head over to Pens Labrynth, the Penguins blog on Fansided. Bill Mayer does a good job covering them and I’m sure he’ll make a post about today’s game.