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Game Preview: The Walking Wounded

Dan Girardi could be in for a 30+ minute night against New Jersey

Dan Girardi could be in for a 30+ minute night against New Jersey

When: Tuesday, December 20, 7:00 p.m.

Opponent: @ New Jersey (18-13-1)



UPDATE: Jeff Woywitka participated in the morning skate but John Tortorella isn't sure if he'll be able to play tonight.  Otherwise, the lineup will be the same and Henrik Lundqvist will start in net for New York.  (11:56 a.m.)

UPDATE: It looks like the Rangers will catch a break as Devils' leading scorer Patrik Elias won't play tonight.  Neither will defenseman Henrik Tallinder.  Martin Brodeur will start in net for New Jersey.  (10:57 a.m.)


EARLIER: The good news for the Rangers is that No. 1 defenseman Marc Staal might be cleared for contact by the end of the week.  The bad news is that for the foreseeable future New York will have to go into battle with a woefully thin defense.

Steve Eminger separated his shoulder on Saturday night against Phoenix and will be out eight-to-10 weeks, joining Staal and Mike Sauer on the shelf with injuries.  Making matters even worse, Jeff Woywitka left Monday’s practice with a foot injury and is questionable for Tuesday’s match against New Jersey.

To replace their wounded the Rangers recalled physical blueliner Stu Bickel, a late-blooming 25-year-old that leads the CT Whale in penalty minutes, and top prospect Tim Erixon, who will play Tuesday in the event that Woywitka cannot.

If it sounds like the Rangers are about to dress a group of no-names, it should.  Of the seven defenders that could possibly skate against the Devils, only two – Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh – were assured of top-six spots entering training camp.

Michael Del Zotto won a job out of camp and has had a tremendous season.  He’ll be counted on like never before in the coming weeks. 

The members of the hodgepodge group of Erixon, Bickel, Woywitka and Anton Stralman, though, will have to prove that they’re not in over their head.

Girardi, McDonagh and Del Zotto could all approach nearly 30 minutes of ice-time against the Devils, but how Tortorella chooses to deploy the rest of his rearguard remains to be seen.

Stralman has become a key player after sitting out for weeks and has played over 20 minutes in each of his last two games.  He figures to be a critical piece for the Rangers going forward after failing to earn a contract from the Devils out of camp.

Woywitka has remained in the lineup despite playing just a handful of minutes per game, but Tortorella has been adamant about bringing Erixon along slowly even though he proved earlier this season that he can handle NHL competition.  The organization would be thrilled to keep Erixon in the press box tomorrow if at all possible.

That leaves Bickel, an afterthought entering the season that impressed the coaching staff with his snarl.  Bickel was snatched from Anaheim in a deal for forgotten prospect Nigel Williams, but there had been next to no buzz about him entering the fall or since camp broke.  However, with four straight rivalry games ahead Bickel could become a very visible player on the ice.

The shabby state of the defense can’t be helped, but the Rangers now need their offense more than ever. 

The team had been rolling on the power play and had several periods with multi-goal outbursts in recent weeks, but has slowed over the last 3-3-1 stretch. 

New York has gotten by without much from Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle, but the spotlight on those players is growing brighter by the day as the team searches for a boost.

This isn’t an ideal time to be running into the Devils, either.  New Jersey has won four straight and six of seven and has generated 26 goals during that stretch.  Zach Parise has caught fire after a slow start to the season and center Travis Zajac returned to the Devils’ lineup last week.

New Jersey, which many had left for dead, now trails the Rangers by just three points, making Tuesday’s tilt in New Jersey a critical one.


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Posted by Kevin Baumer | December 20, 2011 at 11:23 am

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New York Rangers VS Tampa Bay Lightning
Friday, May 29, 2015

  1 2 3 OT F
Rangers 0 0 0 - 0
Lightning 0 0 2 - 2

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