Who's In, Who's Out Tonight For the Blue Shirts?
Coach Torts has made it official by revealing D Matt Gilroy will be scratched tonight and will have to watch tonight's season opener. Steve Eminger and Michael Sauer will evidently be together on the 3rd defense pair.
Meanwhile Andrew Gross of Rangers Rants fame (via Twitter) says Michael Rozsival is with Marc Staal at the morning skate while MDZ is with Girardi.
Up front Tim Kennedy and Todd White will join Gilroy in the press box. The probable lines for the Rangers tonight:
I like the 3rd lines potential to contribute offensively given the undeniable skill of rookie Stepan combined with Feds and Avery. Feds and Avery both had great camps and if they continue pressuring the puck as intensely in the regular season Stepan could cash in some early points as a result of their hard work.
Christensen gets first crack between the Rangers most talented forwards; Gaborik and Frolov. He showed flashes last season of the skill which has teased at every NHL stop to date. It's the consistency, or rather lack of, that has caused EC to bounce around the league. If he doesn't take advantage this season with this opportunity he may never do it.
The second line could be solid though AA played his best hockey last season on the 4th line with Jody Shelley and Prust. He admitted he felt more comfortable there than on a scoring line. Has he matured both physically and mentally enough to be a productive 2nd liner? We'll see.
I also think this is a big year for both Dubi and Cally. Ranger fans and apologists have pointed to these guys for a couple of years as building blocks to a promising future. There is nothing wrong with their play other than maybe our expectations of what it should be. We've predicted a 30 goal season for Cally before and we expect Dubi to play his best more consistently. This is the year when they need to show whether they are able to take the next step in their development. Both players are in the final year of their deals and could set themselves up for a big pay day if they put up.
The 4th line is scary; potentially. Boogaard (6-8) and Boyle (6-6) are two of the tallest players in the NHL. Boogaard is one of it's best fighters. They join Brandon Prust on a 4th line tasked with forechecking and hitting hard. Boyle earned his spot in the preseason with his aggressive and physical play. Boogaard needs to be effective enough to play 8 minutes a game rather than 3 or 4. Prust was a revelation last season. He is an intense player willing to fight, get in on the forecheck and play physical. He showed falshes of skill that may lead to double figures in goals if things fall right. This could be a great 4th line if everyone does their job. If not Boyle and Boogaard will be liabilities on the ice.
The King is in goal and he will be challenged by another of the best goalies in the business, Ryan Miller.
Both teams made significant changes this past off-season. The Rangers shuffled the deck adding 8 new faces (Frolov, Christensen, Fedotenko, Stepan, Boogaard, Prust, Eminger and Sauer) to tonight's lineup that weren't with the club for last season's opener.
The Sabres meanwhile lost a couple of their veteran defenseman: Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder. They are replaced in the lineup by Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrison. They're also going to get a full season from undersized but super-skilled youngster Tyler Ennis. Will the Sabres have an improved product on the ice? We start to find out tonight.
Tonight I don't care about baseball, college football or even fantasy hockey. Tonight all I care about is Rangers hockey. I've tapped a fresh keg of my favorite beer, I'm decked out with my Rangers jersey and beanie. I'm ready for Rangers hockey to begin. Tick, tock, tick, tock, less than 3 hours to go.