How far will the Rangers get this season?

Rangers Look To Right The Ship Against Phoenix

Anton Stralman played 20:18 on Thursday

Anton Stralman played 20:18 on Thursday

When: Saturday, December 17, 8:00 p.m.

Opponent: @ Phoenix (16-12-3)



UPDATE: Marty Biron will start in net for New York.  Mike Rupp is back in the lineup and Artem Anisimov will be scratched with an illness. (7:37 p.m.)

EARLIER: Suddenly the alarm bells in Ranger-land are ringing.

We saw this team – not necessarily at its best – but certainly playing very well in November.  But in December the Blueshirts have come crashing down to earth.

New York is just 2-3-1 in its last six games, a difficult stretch that directly coincides with the loss of defenseman Mike Sauer to a concussion.

The month has revealed two of the team’s major weaknesses – opponents with speed and those that play suffocating defense.

And the Rangers’ own problems have begun to grow.  The team has received no offensive production from key supporting players Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle and the shorthanded defense has finally begun to struggle.

New York will attempt to avoid its second three-game losing streak of the season on Saturday night in Phoenix.  The Blueshirts only other such stretch came in the first weekend of the season, well before the team hit its stride.

The Blueshirts could receive a reinforcement for its front line as free agent signing Mike Rupp looks like a strong bet to return to the lineup after missing the last 22 games with a torn meniscus.

The veteran could help patch up a forward group that hasn’t scored in seven periods, but Rupp isn’t the answer to the Rangers’ problems.  No, the Rangers have fought valiantly this season, but they are in dire need of top defenders Sauer and Marc Staal.

Sauer hasn’t resumed skating since taking a monstrous hit from Dion Phaneuf on December 5th, but Staal has ramped up his skating and is now ready to hit the weight room.  Neither player is yet close to returning, but the Blueshirts miss them dearly.

Anton Stralman played a season-high 20:18 on Thursday against St. Louis as Coach John Tortorella desperately sought a way to stretch the ice and give the offense a boost.  Stralman may be relied upon even more going forward as Ryan McDonagh’s play has dipped a bit.  Michael Del Zotto - who scored the lone goal against the Blues - has also become a critical piece to the Rangers’ puzzle and is now among Tortorella’s must trusted soldiers.

Phoenix was widely predicted to be a Western Conference cellar-dweller after the Coyotes lost goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to free agency this summer, but the team has maintained its scrappy play this season.

Replacement netminder Mike Smith has found new life in the desert, much like Brian Elliott in St. Louis, if not quite on the same level.

Phoenix still struggles to get fans to come to Arena, but the Coyotes have done a wonderful job of ignoring an uncertain ownership situation and remain in the thick of the playoff hunt once again despite losing five of their last eight games.

The Rangers’ favorite trading partner never makes life easy for its opponents, but the Blueshirts must come up with a rebound performance to quell growing panic. 



- Rupp and Wojtek Wolski both participated in practice on Friday and Wolski appears to have been cleared for contact.  Staal joined the team but still wore a non-contact jersey.

- The Rangers re-assigned Tim Erixon to Connecticut.  Erixon had been called up as emergency insurance for the western trip.


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Posted by Kevin Baumer | December 17, 2011 at 03:24 am

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New York Rangers VS Chicago Blackhawks
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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