MADISON SQUARE GARDEN – Let’s hit the Hockey Beat… It’s been an up and down start for the Rangers. Right now they are on the outside looking in, sitting in fourth place in the Metro (the division, not the subway). The Blueshirts haven’t been able to string the wins together. Some of that has to do with the plethora of early season injuries and illnesses that the team has endured (Seriously Tanner Glass, who the hell gets the mumps?!). Especially tough were injuries to defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle, which had the Broadway Blues making do with some defensemen that would struggle to stay on AHL rosters.
Things have improved, though, as the team is finally looking healthy. Hopefully the performances get more consistent as the lineup settles. But the upcoming schedule looks tough, as the weekend kicks off the yearly trip to Western Canada.
The Rangers have played well on this corresponding trip in the last few years, but this is different. After a year with John Tortorella at the helm in which they didn’t even make the playoffs, the Vancouver Canucks are now one of the top teams in the Western Conference… The Calgary Flames have surprised everyone with their solid play this season. They’re sitting pretty in third place in the Pacific Division… And the Edmonton Oilers? Well, they still suck. But they did beat the Rangers earlier this season. Hopefully, a healthy lineup of Blueshirts has what it takes to beat Benoit Pouliot and the cellar-dwelling Oilers this time around.
Out at the Mausoleum, the Islanders may be coming back to earth. After a hot start that saw them lead the way with the most wins in the NHL for a spell, they’ve lost three straight. They still only trail the Penguins by a point for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
The Fish-Sticks are making a real go of things in their last season in Nassau. The acquisitions of Boychuk and Leddy to shore up the blue line have really helped. This year they’ve been a team that can almost score at will. In the past, they were a team that gave up goals at will. To date, they’ve managed to keep the puck out of the net a bit more, but in their last few games they’ve shipped goals like the Isles of last season: Six goals to the Blues in two of their last three games and five to Minnesota on Tuesday night. Is this a sign of things to come for the Islanders? Time will tell.
Over in New Jersey, the Devils are having a tough time in the Post-Brodeur Era. They have lost eight of their last ten games. Right now they’re only a point behind the Rangers in the standings, but New York has four games in hand. The big news out of Newark of late is the return of prodigal son Scott Gomez from the wilderness. Gomez has actually played pretty well after sitting out the start of the season, but he’s not the kind of player that is going to lead the Devils to the playoffs.
Thats it for me today. Tune in late night tomorrow to watch the Rangers take on the Canucks.