Game 6 is tonight in Ottawa and both sides see an integral player return to their respective lineups.
Daniel Alfredsson, out since midway through Game 2 with a concussion, makes his triumphant return with his team up 3-2 in the series and a chance to advance in front of the home crowd.
Meanwhile, Carl Hagelin—the player responsible for Alfredsson’s concussion by delivering an elbow to the Swede’s head—makes his return, as well. And, not a moment too soon as the Rangers have been lost on offense, particularly his linemates Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, during his three-game ban.
Hagelin’s absence really showed just what he brings to the New York Rangers. His speed, along with his puck-possession abilities propelled the scoring line because of how long the puck would be in Ottawa’s zone, meaning more time to make plays.
The Senators are prone to mistakes in their end and, while Hagelin has been out, the Rangers have simply not had the puck enough by being severely out-chanced, meaning more time in their end defending and less time attacking on offense.
Amazing how much a rookie has become crucial to the success of the Rangers at the moment.
With Hagelin back, look for coach Tortorella to reunite the scoring line in an effort to jump start his offense and get something more of of his top players.
The lineup is certain to look different due to Brian Boyle’s concussion from Game 5. The question is, where does Torts go?
Does he insert John Scott, scratched the entire series, to the fourth line to add some physicality? Does Steve Eminger see his first playoff game, moving Stu Bickel up to forward from the third defense pairing? Does John Mitchell—partially responsible for the defensive breakdown in Game 5 that lead to the game’s only goal—take a seat?
Because of Scott’s inability to skate, and Torts’ appreciation for what Eminger brings to the table, I see the coach scratching Mitchell, moving Bickel up to the forward and inserting Eminger on the blue line.
Tortorella also alluded to rookie Chris Kreider getting more minutes because of the top player’s inability to be productive in his Game 5 post-game press conference. Sounds like a solid idea, because playing less than 10 minutes a game with grinders certainly isn’t working.
Moving up Kreider makes sense. Pairing him with the playmaking Derek Stepan, another younger player, makes even more sense, possibly giving Kreider the confidence to showcase his offensive skills.
Here are the lines I’d go with in Game 6:
With the series on the line, and the offense clearly in need of a shakeup, it’s time for Torts to try anything that will help his team win two games.