When: Wednesday, November 23, 7:30 p.m.
Opponent: @ Florida (11-6-3)
UPDATE: Stralman will make his Rangers debut in place of Jeff Woywitka. Henrik Lundqvist will be in net. (4:01 p.m.)
UPDATE: The Rangers will unveil their Winter Classic jerseys on Monday at 4:00 p.m. (3:10 p.m.)
UPDATE: Jose Theodore will start for Florida. (12:11 p.m.)
EARLIER: Over the next seven days the Rangers will play the
Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. But first they must take on the current third
seed in the Eastern Conference, the surprising Florida Panthers, in New York's first of three games in four days.
No one expected much from Florida this season because even though
the Panthers invested big money in capable veteran free agents, they lost
goalie Tomas Vokoun to free agency.
But so far the trio of Scott Clemmensen, Jose Theodore and
Jacob Markstrom has done an admirable job in net and the Panthers rank 11th in the league in goals against.
Strong goaltending has been a welcome surprise, but the
Panthers trail the first place Penguins by just two points because their
offense has been fantastic.
The top trio of Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Tomas
Fleischmann has combined for 28 goals and 38 assists and has been literally
That line is the primary reason Florida has been winning,
but the Panthers also boast the league’s seventh-ranked power play and have
gotten big contributions from defenders Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov and
At some point Florida may come tumbling back down to earth,
but the Panthers beat Pittsburgh on Saturday and are undeniably one of the
league’s top teams at the present time.
That means the Panthers will provide a big test for New
York, which has beaten up on the NHL’s cellar dwellers but has yet to prove
itself against the league’s powerhouses.
The Blueshirts racked up victories over the Ducks,
Canadiens, Jets, Senators, Hurricanes and Islanders during their seven-game win
streak and though the Rangers shouldn’t be punished for picking up 12 valuable
points, those games might not have been the best indicator of where the Rangers
New York has gotten by with an ineffective power play and
inconsistent offense thanks to stellar goaltending and defensive play, but the
Rangers probably won’t be able to compete with Florida, Washington,
Philadelphia or Pittsburgh without delivering complete efforts.
Of course, New York must be cognizant of Florida’s top trio,
but the team will need to start producing more goals as well.
Defenseman Anton Stralman practiced
with the first power play unit on Tuesday along with Brad Richards, Brandon
Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Erik Christensen and could make his season debut
against the Panthers.
The G.A.S. line and Dubinsky/Richards/Callahan trio will get
one more chance to click, but if they struggle Coach John Tortorella will likely
start from scratch in search of fresh line combinations.
Florida should provide a good early season barometer –
something we could have never guessed before the season. We’ll see if the Rangers are up to the task.
- Jim Cerny reports that injured players Wojtek Wolski, Mike
Rupp and Marc Staal travelled with
the team to Florida. That’s a
positive sign, but it could be nothing more than a team-bonding exercise as the
team travels during Thanksgiving. Wolski
and Rupp both underwent surgical procedures at the beginning of the month and
were expected to miss at least four weeks.
Each could player could soon be ready to skate. Staal was cleared for light physical activity
last week but hasn’t
been skating. He’s obviously on the
right track, but his return is still a long way off.
- HBO will air a 12-minute preview of “24/7” on
Friday at 9:15 p.m.
- Andrew Gross speculates that the Rangers will unveil their
Winter Classic jerseys next
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