Back home from Europe and fresh off a week of much needed rest and practice, the New York Rangers (0-0-2 2 points) head in to Nassau Coliseum to face the New York Islanders (2-1-0 4 points) for the first of six contests this season. Game time is scheduled for 7:00PM and can be seen on MSG and MSG+.
During practice this week, coach John Tortorella tinkered with the lines once again, this time dropping Brandon Dubinsky off the top line and placing him back with Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan. Moved up from the 4th line, Derek Stepan took Dubinsky’s place along side Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.
Initially, Torts wanted to give Dubinsky another look on the top line. After some pondering, the dubiously impatient coach realized it’s a matter of a balanced attack and reuniting two solid lines from last season might be the best thing for the good of the team going forward.
Join me after the jump for more on the pre-game report.
Earlier in the week, Tortorella proclaimed he wouldn’t enter in a musical chairs affair with the forward lines. Admittedly, the first two games of the season were tough to evaluate, thus making it difficult to know with certainty who works well together. But, as Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News found out, stability is more important:
“There’s no question that would be the best thing to do,” he said of keeping Dubinsky, Anisimov and Callahan together, a move that also reunites Ruslan Fedotenko, Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust on the third line. “Whether it comes out that way, I don’t know, but that’s what I’d really like to happen.”
Meanwhile, the Islanders will be coming off a 5-1 over the Tampa Bay Lightning. In that game, John Tavares had a 4-point effort (2g, 2a) while Al Montoya (1.35 GAA, .953 sv%) won his second game of the season. Head coach Jack Capuano credited the Lightning in their overall game but gave his goalie kudos for his strong effort in net. Brett Crygalis of the NY Post has more:
“They had some chances,” Capuano said. “We had some breakdowns and Al made some big saves for us.”
Despite the complimentary play in net, it will be Evgeni Nabokov, not Al Montoya, getting the start in net for the Islanders. It will be Nabokov’s first NHL game since May 23, 2010 when he was a member of the San Jose Sharks.
Nursing a shoulder injury for several weeks now, Rangers defenseman Michael Sauer will sit today and newly acquired Jeff Woywitka will make his first start as a Ranger. Steve Zipay of Newsday got the scoop from the head coach himself via Twitter:
“Tortorella: Sauer won’t play Saturday, not long-term issue with shoulder, will be on Western Canada trip.”
F Wojtek Wolski (groin) is out for today’s game.
Derek Stepan-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Mike Rupp-Erik Christensen-Mats Zuccarello
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto-Tim Erixon
Jeff Woywitka-Steve Eminger
KEYS TO VICTORY:
- RESPECT THE OPPONENT: They may not say it, but the Rangers have a notorious history of underestimating the Islanders. Despite losing 4 of 6 to the Rangers last season, both Islanders wins were at home and included 6 goals scored. The Rangers have to play their game and match the Islanders intensity for 60 minutes.
- COMPLETE DEFENSIVE EFFORT: With Sauer not playing, the Rangers lose another vital cog on the blue line. Factor in youngsters Michael Del Zotto and Tim Erixon having to play more minutes, the Girardi-McDonagh pair is going to be relied even more. It has to be a complete defensive effort from top to bottom.
- GET THE POWER PLAY GOING: The Rangers are 0-8 with the man advantage to start the season. That has to change if victory is in order. Having a week to practice should help the personnel get more familiar with each other.
- TEST NABOKOV EARLY AND OFTEN: You’re facing a goalie in Nabokov making his first NHL start in nearly a year and an half. Saying its imperative to pepper him with shots is a gross understatement.
Opponent Blog: Eyes On Isles
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Tags: Al Montoya Artem Anisimov Brad Richards Brandon Dubinsky Dan Girardi Derek Stepan Evgeni Nabokov Henrik Lundqvist John Tavares John Tortorella Marian Gaborik Michael Del Zotto New York Isanders New York Rangers Ryan Callahan Ryan McDonagh