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
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
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
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 Jobing.com
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.
here for our full 2011-2012 Season Archive >
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