When: Sunday, December 11, 7:30 p.m.
Opponent: vs. Florida (16-8-5)
UPDATE: Andrew Gross reports that Sean Avery will be scratched in favor of Erik Christensen (5:59 p.m.)
EARLIER: A year ago New York went 10-6-0 in the second game of
back-to-backs, a record that was a strong indicator of the team’s resiliency
and blue-collar work ethic. The extra
points earned from those games were as critical as those earned via the
shootout (in which the Rangers were 9-3) in pushing New York into the playoffs.
So far this season the Blueshirts are 2-0-1 in the second
game of back-to-backs, a mark they’ll try to improve tonight against the
surprising Florida Panthers.
The Blueshirts didn’t deliver a perfect effort on Saturday evening
against Buffalo, but New York has taught us that it doesn’t necessarily need its
“A+” game to pick up victories.
Three special teams goals were more than enough to dispatch
of the injury-weakened Buffalo Sabres, but the Rangers will face an even
greater test when they host the Southeast Division leading Panthers tonight.
Yes, believe it or not, Florida hasn’t gone away. The Panthers lost star goalie Tomas Vokoun to
free agency - the Washington Capitals signed him to a one-year, $1.5 million
deal - but the Panthers used their considerable extra cash to retool their
Florida’s lineup is nearly unrecognizable from a year ago
and so far the Panthers have thrived with their new faces.
Florida’s top line of Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss and Tomas
Fleischmann hasn’t slowed since these teams last met two weeks ago, picking up
seven goals and 13 assists in their last eight games.
Fleischmann delivered a goal and assisted on Jason Garrison’s
point blast when the Panthers beat the Rangers 2-1 on November 23rd. It was New York’s second loss after its
seven-game win streak and the Rangers ripped off five victories in a row after
At that point Florida could be dismissed as an early-season
overachiever, but the Panthers earned consecutive victories over San Jose,
Washington and Boston last week and, like the Rangers, have established
themselves as a top-tier team that isn’t going away.
The Blueshirts will turn back to Henrik Lundqvist tonight
after Martin Biron delivered his usual stellar fill-in start on Saturday
Coach John Tortorella also appears to have tired of the line
combinations that powered New York through November. Last night Brandon Dubinsky was returned to a
line with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, amongst other experiments.
Before the season few would have guessed that a matchup
between Florida and New York would have playoff implications, but these teams
could be jockeying for seeding come March and could see each other again in the
One thing the Ranger must keep in mind is staying out of the
box. Florida’s third-ranked power play
has been dynamite this year and Garrison made New York pay the last time these
here for our full 2011-2012 Season Archive >
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