“It could be real easy to look at those seven games and be happy with it and then things fall the other way. The most important thing is to come out in Florida and make sure we get back on the horse here and get back in the winning column. The only way we are going to do that is to get back to working on the ice the way we know how.”
Ryan Callahan via Blueshirts United
Opponent Blog: The Rat Trick
No folks, that’s not a typo in the title. The Florida Panthers are 3rd in the Eastern Conference and the Southeast Division leaders over the Washington Capitals by two points in the early going as the New York Rangers make their first visit to the Sunshine State on Thanksgiving Eve.
Coming off a brutal 4-0 loss at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, which snapped the team’s seven-game win steak, the Rangers have had several days off to regroup and prepare for a stretch of three games in four nights against quality Eastern Conference opponents, and a match with the Pittsburgh Penguins, complete with Sidney Crosby, looming on November 29. It’s an early litmus test for the team and we’ll give an indication of just how good – or not so good – the Rangers are.
Join me after the jump for the full pre-game report.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are coming off a rousing 4-3 comeback win against the New Jersey Devils Monday night. Down 3-2 in the third period, Florida tied the game midway through the period and scored with just under 2 minutes remaining to give the Panthers its first three-goal comeback win in franchise history. Kris Versteeg is leading the team with 11 goals, 14 assists and, along with the other veteran additions by GM Dale Tallon, are turning heads with their impressive start.
Tonight’s game could mark the season and Ranger debut of D Anton Stralman, who saw practice with the first power play unit during practice yesterday. It was written on Blue Line Station yesterday that Stralman could be the key to igniting a stagnant Rangers power play if he plays his game, which is getting shots on net from the point. On the other hand, it could be a complete bust. Regardless, Stralman is eager to get some game action as NY Daily News’ Pat Leonard found out and tonight could be the night:
“You can only practice it to a certain amount or level, then you really have to get it in the games,” he said Monday. “I’m just trying to work hard in practice and prepare myself as good as I can, and when I get called upon, I’ll try to put it into games.”
If Stralman does suit up, it raises an interesting question as to who comes out. Does Torts take out either Steve Eminger or Jeff Woywitka? Stralman is a right-handed shot, meaning Eminger would be the likelier of the two to sit. Or, does he go the route of scratching a forward and play the game with seven D, maintaining the continuity of defense and only playing Stralman on the power play? Sitting out Erik Christensen wouldn’t upset anyone, I would think.
EDITOR UPDATE: Stralman will be in the lineup tonight. Rangers will not make decision on who will be scratched in his place until after warmups.
Injuries: F Wojtek Wolski (sports hernia), C Mike Rupp (knee surgery), D Marc Staal (concussion) are all out for tonight’s game.
KEYS TO VICTORY:
- A BETTER EFFORT – It goes without saying the effort the Rangers displayed in Montreal was abysmal. Aside from Marian Gaborik and Brandon Prust, the Rangers just weren’t there. That absolutely needs to change against a much-improved Florida Panthers team.
- SHAKE OFF THE RUST: If you can believe it, Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t started a game in eight days due to the recent light patch of scheduling. Hank’s competitiveness is never put into question; however, I think he’ll need some early work to get himself into the game.
- MAINTAIN DISCIPLINE – Florida boasts the 7th best power play in the NHL, operating at 20% rate. Newcomers Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell, and Tomas Fleischmann account for roughly 58% of the total amount of power play points they’ve accumulated. With their veteran presence they also bring offensive production. Stay out of the box.
- SHOOT THE PUCK, BARRY! – The Panthers are allowing 32.6 shots per game, 4th worst in the NHL. Well, it’s a good thing the Rangers practiced getting more shots on net this week, isn’t it? Regardless of who is in net for Florida (most likely Theodore), the Rangers have to test the opposition’s goalies more and force them to make saves.
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