MSG – The New York Rangers just finished up a stretch where they played six games in nine days. They won only one of those games. And now they have some key injuries to deal with. Derek Stepan and Kevin Klein are on the shelf for now and the Blueshirts have to get through a difficult stretch without them.
The Rangers stormed out of the gates this season and managed to put together a nine game winning streak in November. But since then, the wheels have started to come off. It may be an overachieving team coming back to earth. But there are some serious question marks surrounding this Blueshirts’ slide that is expected to make another deep playoff run.
They’ll be without a first line center in Derek Stepan for about six weeks as he recovers from broken ribs. In his absence Kevin Hayes will slot back into the center position. The Rangers have recalled Tanner Glass from Hartford to fill out the forwards as Emerson Etem has failed to impress Alain Vigneault to this point. Chris Kreider has also been sub-par so far this season. He will need to step up now as the Rangers have been struggling to score recently.
Kevin Klein is out injured with a muscle strain. He had been one of the Rangers’ most consistent defensemen this season. Now Dylan McIlrath will slide into the lineup. McIlrath shows promise as a young defenseman and while I’d certainly rather see Klein in the lineup, I’m glad that the kid will get some playing time. This definitely does leave the team vulnerable on the blue line. Marc Staal is having an off year and Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle are prone to bad lapses that usually result in goals. So the Rangers will need to get the offense going in Klein’s absence.
Rookie Oscar Lindberg continues to impress. He scored again last night even though the goal came too late to have any effect on the result. AV has been shuffling the lines a bit recently, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a return of the third line that started the season with JT Miller centering Lindberg and Viktor Stalberg. Stalberg has been seeing a good bit of time on the fourth line but that may change as he has started contributing offensively again.
Henrik Lundqvist has been stellar so far this season. He’s been putting up Vezina-type numbers in the early going. He’ll need to keep up this level of play to keep the Rangers in the hunt with their current offensive struggles. Antti Raanta has proven to be a capable deputy to the King. It was a shame to see Cam Talbot go in the offseason, but Raanta’s play so far has shown the Talbot trade to be a shrewd business move.
The Rangers get a couple of nights off before hosting the Ottawa Senators Sunday night. After that the Rangers make their annual trip to Western Canada, where they have played well in recent seasons. Hopefully the Rangers can get things back on the rails out West.
Thats it for me today. Tune in tomorrow for Junoir Blaber. And I’ll see some of you tomorrow at Bar Golf.