UPDATE – Brendan Bell replaces Jeff Woywitka on the Rangers third defensive pairing, Henrik Lundqvist starts in goal and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins DOES play for the Oilers.
ORIGINAL POST- With Ryan McDonagh’s late show in Calgary securing the Rangers second win in Western Canada on Thursday night, the Blueshirts will now look to stretch their winning streak to three games against former coach Tom Renney and his Edmonton Oilers side.
There remains the very real possibility that the Rangers could yet sweep their four-game swing of WC with arguably the two toughest games against the Canucks (4-0) and Flames (3-2 OT) behind them, though for now we’ll concentrate on the more immediate issue of tonight’s game at Rexall Place.
Join me after the jump as we take a look at the projected lines, the keys to the game and assess whether this is the right time for Marty Biron’s regular-season debut.
Derek Stepan-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Mike Rupp-Erik Christensen-Kris Newbury
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto-Time Erixon
Brendan Bell-Steve Eminger
KEYS TO THE GAME
Taking their chances - If there’s one thing the Rangers must do tonight it’s capitalise on the Oilers defense. For all their young blue-chip forwards, their D remains their biggest weakness and something the Rangers forwards must exploit. Last seasons 8-2 win over the Oilers at MSG included a three-goal game for Marian Gaborik, and given his early season form it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the scoreboard again tonight. Of course, points for Gaborik should translate to points for Brad Richards too. The Blueshirts big-money summer signing has assisted on all four of the Slovak’s goals so far this season and has looked every inch the elite center he was paid to be.
Scoring from the second line – Hopefully secondary scoring won’t be as much of a necessity tonight as it will need to be on others, but the Rangers would sure like to see some production from Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan. All three have been largely inconsistent after strong games in Europe, and though that isn’t anything to fuss over given we are only five games into the season, it’s not something we’ll want to be talking about in another ten games time.
Defensive awareness – It goes without saying that the Oilers top line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle need to be marshalled tightly. The trio have looked dangerous in every game so far since being put together after Ales Hemsky sustained a shoulder injury against Minnesota. Speed and skill against a Rangers blueline still missing it’s best defenseman, one reason why I feel the Blueshirts need to ride Henrik Lundqvist through this one.
LUNDQVIST vs. BIRON
Henrik Lundqvist has started 36 consecutive league games for the Rangers dating back to February 11th in Atlanta. He needs a rest and he’ll probably get that either tonight or, ironically given the Atlanta link, in Winnipeg on Monday. Personally I’d rather Biron got his regular-season bow against the Jets. The Oilers may still be a developing team but their top-line is dangerous and could make things very tough for Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. With Biron unlikely to play both games it would make sense to play Lundqvist tonight before giving him a four-day break prior to the Rangers home opener on Thursday.
Interestingly, there is speculation doing the rounds that the Oilers may scratch Nugent-Hopkins tonight in favour of Sam Gagner as Tom Renney apparently wants to delay the decision process on Nugent-Hopkins future. We’ll see how this plays out closer to puck-drop.
Opponent blog: Oil On Whyte
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