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The New York Rangers entered Game 5 looking to stave off elimination and put the pressure back on the shoulders of the favorite Washington Capitals.  In a season in which the Rangers have fought through adversity and overcome long odds multiple times, today it was just not their day as they fell 3-1.  All season the team has put forth great efforts as a unit built on heart and not talent, but this one saw a team that looked broken and unable to mount any real fight to threaten the Capitals.

The effort was disappointing given how Game 4 ended and with the various proclamations for how ready the team would be to go today.  They simply weren’t and the Capitals took advantage.  If anything the result of this game should have been a lot worse than 3-1.  Today was probably the most lopsided of all the games of the series.  I would not dwell on today’s performance as it was not indicative of the team or the year as a whole.  This team is made up of a group of fighters and gave their fans much to be proud of throughout the season.  Losing is never easy to deal with, but the taste left as this season ends is much better than the last two years because of the hope for the future.  The look to the future will start here tomorrow and last for the offseason as we look back at 2010-11 season and look forward to 2011-12 with everything that concerns the Rangers.

As for the game, the Capitals dominated the first other than the first shift in which the Rangers had chances to score but failed to finish.  From that point on the period was played predominately in the New York zone and saw the Capitals outshoot them 13-6 and chances were even more lopsided than that.  Mike Green the first goal of the game while on the power-play at 5:59 of the opening period.  Green took an Alex Ovechkin pass and from a sharp angle scored by sliding it off Dan Girardi.  Green’s play was likely going to slide through the crease, but Girardi in trying to dive back to protect the net had the puck go off his knees behind Lundqvist.  The goal was the first in the first period of the series.

The Capitals made it 2-0 at the 7:04 mark of the second period when Ovechkin streaked down the right side of the ice and beat Lundqvist with a backhander.  The play was a beauty by Ovechkin as he blew past Marc Staal and made no mistake on the finish.

Alexander Semin made it 3-0 Capitals with under four minutes to play and Wojtek Wolski would get a meaningless goal with just 31.5 seconds left to allow the Rangers to avoid the shutout

  • The disappointment of Marian Gaborik stands out as he failed to rise to the occasion of the big game yet again.  The Rangers need to find out what this guy is made of and either fix whatever his problem was this year or look to move him because his personality did not fit the mold of the rest of this team this year.
  • Dan Girardi played with tremendous guts today coming back from a severely dislocated finger in which he had to take a needle just to play in order to try and help the team


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For the second time in the four games of the Eastern Quarterfinal Series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals took overtime to decide the outcome.  The bad news for the Rangers was the outcome was the same with the Capitals getting the game on Jason Chimera’s goal 12:36 into the second overtime to give Washington the 4-3 victory.  One has to wonder if that goal was one that will silence the Garden crowd for the rest of the summer as the Capitals now have a 3-1 series lead with a chance to close it in Game 5 on Saturday in Washington.

The utter silence of the Garden crowd as the puck went in was even more shocking when compared to the raucous nature of the crowd from the beginning of the game and especially after the Rangers took the 3-0 lead in the second.  The best chant came after that goal when the Garden had erupted with a beautiful “Can You Hear Us?” chant directed at Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.  The beauty of that chant seems so far away at this point, as does the level of noise that came with it.

The winner for the Capitals came on a breakdown between Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist as Lundqvist went to smother the puck for a whistle while Gaborik poked the loose puck away from his goaltender and to Chimera for the winner.  For many it is ironically fitting that Gaborik who has struggled so mightily to regain the form he had last season in the scoring department helped assist the Capitals in scoring the winner.  To blame Gaborik is easy at the moment, but the loss tonight is much bigger than him or any one play in the game.

The Rangers were a perfect 29-0-0 when leading after two periods during the regular season, so blowing a three goal lead in the final period was a bigger problem than just Gaborik’s mistake in the second overtime.  If you want to truly blame something for the loss, look no further than the power play which was 0-for-7 tonight and now 1-for-18 in the series.  You cannot win in the playoffs when your power play is that anemic.

The first period was yet another scoreless first as it has been in every game of the series.  The second period saw the Rangers dominate the action while scoring three goals.  Artem Anisimov would open the scoring 5:24 into the period when he scored from behind the goal line.  Anisimov got the puck behind the net and banked it off Mark Hendricks before getting by Neuvirth.

Marian Gaboirk extended the lead to 2-0 at 13:40 of the second.  Gaborik will get credit for the goal in the boxscore, but the goal belongs to Ruslan Fedotenko and his tremendous work from behind the net to the slot where he fired a perfect backhand pass to Gaborik for the tap-in.  The goal was Gaborik’s first of the series.

With the Garden flying from the second goal of the game, the Rangers tacked on a third seven seconds later when Brandon Dubinsky beat Neuvirth with a shot from the slot.  Once again full credit for the goal goes to Fedotenko.  Fedotenko broke in the zone off the face-off at center, shot wide, but hustled behind the net to win the puck back and fed Dubinsky for the goal.  The two goals in seven seconds was one off the team record of two goals in six seconds and two seconds off the NHL playoff record.

The Rangers outstanding second period was overshadowed by an abysmal third in which they squandered all three goals of their lead.  The Capitals came out with tremendous energy to start the third and the Rangers didn’t match it.  Alex Semin scored just 2:47 into the third on a goal in which Henrik Lundqvist attempted to cover the puck, but the whistle never blew and Semin finally stuffed it in.  There were definitely some quick whistles on the Capitals end of the ice in terms of stoppage for Neuvirth, which is fair as a comparison.  In terms of the play itself, Lundqvist never had control of the puck, so the fact there was no whistle was the right call.

Just 57 seconds after the Semin goal, Marcus Johannson brought the Capitals to within one when he was left all alone in front for the tap-in off the feed from Brooks Laich.

The worst call of the night came at 10:03 of the third when Avery was whistled for a phantom slash on Alex Ovechkin after Dubinsky was pulled down at the other end and got no call.  The Capitals did not officially convert on the call, but just four seconds after the penalty ended Washington tied the game, as Marcus Johansson deflected John Carlson’s point shot by Lundqvist at 12:07.

Early in the overtime the Rangers were going to have a 2-on-0 with Dubinsky and Gaborik after a beautiful outlet pass from Ryan McDonagh, but Dubinsky was stopped by referee Paul Devorski.

Alexander Ovechkin broke in with 8:59 left in overtime only to be turned aside by the glove of Henrik Lundqvist.  Ovechkin came out at Staal on the point and when Staal’s shot attempt was blocked Ovechkin kept going leading to breakaway.

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The New York Rangers returned to Madison Square Garden looking to stake a claim in the quarterfinal series with the Washington Capitals.  Down 0-2 in the series the team needed to hold serve at home this afternoon if they were going to have a viable chance to take the series.  They got just that when Brandon Dubinsky finally made a mark on the proceedings with the game winning goal.  The goal came with just 1:39 left in the game as Dubinsky made a series of moves to step out in front on the short side and the deflected puck got in behind Neuvirth to give the Rangers the win and life in the series. Dubinsky’s fake as if he was going to continue around the net was the key to the play as it froze Hannan, Alzner and Ovechkin and allowed for Dubinsky to step out and have the puck ping-pong into the net.

After playing two subpar games to open the series Dubinsky made two huge plays to help lead his team to this crucial victory.  The Rangers got back to playing to their style and it paid off as all three goals were created from hard work and their resiliency was on full display as well.  The 3-2 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington gives the Rangers a level of hope at 2-1 that would not have existed down 3-0.  Now they will be looking to even the series on Wednesday night at MSG.

During the first period the team played their style and set the tone with physical play.  Sean Avery was the kind of spark the team needs him to be during the period and helped to key the offensive chances along with Boyle and Prust.  The problem, like the third period of Game 2, was that the Boyle, Prust, Avery line was the only one really generating any offense and the team still came out with no goals.  The Rangers had a two man advantage for 1:25 late in the period, but another passive power play failed to generate any really good chances with the time.

After another failed power play early in the second the Rangers got on the board first courtesy of a beautiful snipe from Erik Christensen with the man advantage.  The goal came 5:30 into the period and saw Christensen score from a seemingly impossible angle high to the short side.

The Rangers held the lead until Alex Ovehckin tied the score with just 59.2 seconds left in the period.  New York failed to clear the zone and in the scramble play that saw Ovechkin dive to get a call near the point and Staal take out Green in the slot, Arnott would flip a shot at the net which Ovechkin tipped in.

The air came out of MSG following the goal by Ovechkin, but there was hope momentarily when Ruslan Fedotenko appeared to score with 0.1 seconds on the clock to give the Rangers the lead back to end the second.  After review, the puck was ruled to have crossed after 0.00 on the clock, thus making it no goal and a 1-1 hockey game heading to the third.

New York took the lead again 8:01 into the third when Vinny Prospal put home an empty net rebound.  The goal was created by a cycle play from Gaborik, Prospal and Dubinsky that saw Dubinsky feed Staal with a cross ice pass to the point, Staal fired high on Neuvirth and led to the rebound for Prospal.

For the third time in the series, second in the third period, the Rangers could not hold the lead they had gained on the Capitals.  Knuble was the one with the answer this time as he scored a power play goal with 5:12 remaining in regulation.  The play was a combination of brilliance from Washington and defensive breakdowns from the Rangers.  Dubinsky failed to get his stick in the passing lane allowing a cross ice pass from Ovechkin to Backstrom that had the defense scrambling and left Knuble wide open at the top of the crease.  Dan Girardi had a breakdown on the play as well when he over pursed Ovechkin beyond the faceoff dot and being that far out of the play was unable to get back to Knuble.

  • This is the version of Dubinsky the Rangers need every game, especially in the absence of Callahan.
  • Brian Boyle consistently put himself in the right place to get chances, which is shown through his 9 shots on goal, but now he has to start finishing.
Categories : Game Wrap-ups, Playoffs
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Capitals Gain 2-0 Control of Series with 2-0 Win.

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The New York Rangers fell behind 2-0 in their first round series against the Washington Capitals following a 2-0 defeat in Game 2.  The effort tonight was better in the first and third period than most of the game on Wednesday, but the problem is that you have to play a full 60 minutes in the playoffs if you actually want to win the games.  There is also that pesky fact of needing to score in order to win.  After generating only one goal and 25 shots in Game 1, the Rangers offense only had 22 shots and could not beat Michal Neuvirth who recorded his first career postseason shutout.  The Rangers have responded well to adversity all season and now that will be tested again as they look to hold home ice and get into the series on Sunday afternoon.  The difference between 2-1 and 3-0 in a series goes without saying and the Rangers will either put their say on this series Sunday afternoon or likely start saying their goodbyes to the 2010-11 year.

The Rangers played a good first period tonight and carried the play for much of the first 20 minutes.  The play was tough and physical, which is exactly the way the Rangers need it to be because it allowed them to establish their forecheck and hold puck possession.  They had their chances to score whether it be Erik Christensen missing from point blank range or Gaborik having a couple of good rushes in rout to his three shot first period.  The power play was still ineffective late in the first and nearly cost the Rangers a goal when Brooks Laich broke down with Mike Knuble, but Knuble fanned on the shot to end the period tied at 0-0.

Following that strong first they played an awful second period.  The Capitals came out early with a raised level and the Rangers had no answer.  Just 2:11 into the period Jason Chimera scored the first on a beautiful passing play that saw the puck move seamlessly from Laich to Johannson and then Chimera.  The key to the play was Laich beating Gilroy behind the net.

Ryan McDonagh took his second penalty of the game just 48 seconds after the Chimera goal.  The call on McDonagh was extremely weak, but that doesn’t matter once the call is made.  Good call or bad it is up to the penalty kill to kill it off and they were unable to do that on this one.  With McDonagh in the box it meant that Matt Gilroy would be on the ice during the kill and as usual the puck finds the guy who probably shouldn’t be out there.  To be fair to Gilroy the play was unlucky, but Mike Green attempted to play the puck towards the net while the Capitals were on the power play, had it deflect off Matt Gilroy and right to Jason Arnott who buried it.  The two goals in 1:53 of action gave any Rangers fan watching the sense that the lead was going to be insurmountable given how the way the offense was going.

The Rangers were useless the rest of the second and other than the Avery, Boyle, Prust line producing chances in the third period no one did anything to threaten Neuvirth.  The fact that Neuvirth only had to make nine saves in the final 40 minutes of action shows you that the Rangers never truly deserved to win the game.

  • Avery, Boyle and Prust generated a number of chances in the third period, which gives hope in some sense that they will eventually find the back of the net, but also is a problem when that trio is your best or only threating offensive group.  Avery was good in his 10:22 of ice time, but was not really used significantly until the third period.
  • Gaborik was a threat in the first period, but after that he pulled a disappearing act and was not seen from again.  He is paid to score and he was not even a threat once Washington raised their level, which does not bode well for the team if that continues.
Categories : Game Wrap-ups, Playoffs
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Semin OT Winner Gives Capitals 1-0 Series Lead

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The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals opened their playoff series with what wasn’t the prettiest of games, but if this is an example of how tight the series will be the fans of both teams will be on the edge of their seats.  The Capitals protected home ice with Alex Semin’s OT winner 18:24 into the first session of extra hockey.  The play saw Jason Arnott catch an attempted clear from Marc Staal at the point and then a wide open Semin in the slot who ripped a one-timer past Lundqvist high on the stick side to give Washington the 1-0 lead in the series.

New York while not playing a great game by any stretch had opportunities to win the game and steal Game 1 in Washington and have to take some measure of solace in that fact.  It tells the Rangers they can raise their game and change the result.  The Rangers grinders played well in the game, but their offensive talent failed to do anything of major note in the game.  The team fought well and proved to everyone this will be no pushover in the series.

The problem with the loss is not just that they lost, but how.  The fact that both Ovechkin and Semin scored gives the Capitals two biggest offensive weapons confidence for the rest of the series and after both went scoreless against New York in four meetings this year now have two goals in their back pocket already.

The first period saw the Rangers badly outplayed by the home town Capitals, but Henrik Lundqvist was excellent to keep the game at 0-0.  The team took two bad penalties in the period.  The first was a too many men on the ice call that was caused when Brandon Dubinsky jumped over the boards early and the other was a weak boarding call against Mats Zuccarello.  The Rangers killed off both power plays, but were lucky during the period when both Alex Semin and Jason Arnott hit the crossbar after beating Lundqvist with their shots.  The Arnott chance came after an attempted Prust breakout pass went off the skate of Marc Staal and found Arnott alone in the slot.  Alex Ovechkin was also left open multiple times during the period, fanning once on the shot and then getting stoned by Lundqvist.

The second period saw the Rangers play to a more equivalent level of the Capitals.  Each goaltender had a huge save in the period.  Neuvirth stoned Gaborik from the front of the net just before the midway point of the period and then late in the period Backstrom was in alone on a breakaway before Lundqvist shut him down.  The play for Backstrom was created by the Capitals stretching the Rangers defense with a breakout pass from Carlson to Ovechkin who then hit Backstrom alone in the middle of the ice.

The Rangers happiness to be tied after two periods increase dramatically just moments into the third period when Matt Gilroy scored to make it 1-0.  The play was created by Brandon Prust taking the body in the corner, working it down to Wojtek Wolski behind the net who found a pinching Gilroy and he beat Neuvirth with a snap shot far side.

Washington tied it 13:44 into the period on a goal from Alex Ovechkin.  The play saw the Capitals jam at the loose puck around the crease and while it appeared that the referee was going to blow the play dead the puck was in the net before.  The play would go to review before being confirmed as a goal.  The goal was a huge one for the Capitals who were beginning to press for the goal and the pressure would have only mounted the longer it went on.

  • Brandon Dubinsky was awful tonight and must be better as one of the Rangers leaders if they are going to actually win the games instead of just contend.
  • The defense played very well as a group and I was impressed with how Sauer, McDonagh and even Gilroy adjusted to the differences of playoff hockey.
Categories : Game Wrap-ups, Playoffs
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To win in the playoffs you need your stars to play to their capabilities, but you also need a few unsuspecting players to step their game up and bring more than might be expected of them.  For the Rangers heading into their series against the Washington Capitals Wojtek Wolski and Chris Drury are two wild cards that would greatly improve the chances of victory with strong play.  From game to game you might know which version will show up, but at their best each can help in their own ways.

Wolski started strong for the Rangers and then tailed off to point of being a healthy scratch, but he played a critical role in each of the team’s final two victories during the regular season.  The skill has never been the question for Wolski, rather the effort and impact he has on the ice.  Wolski can be a top line talent and since being put with Derek Stepan and Vinny Prospal he has shown more of that talent.  Against the Bruins he played excellent hockey and was instrumental in both Vinny Prospal goals that gave the Rangers life to make the comeback possible.  Against the Devils he scored early in the second period to tie the game after the Devils had taken the lead late in period one.  If that goal does not happen when it did there is no telling how the rest of the game plays out because of the tension both in the crowd and the team the longer it took for them to get back to even.  These two games are the kinds of efforts that could make Wolski a key piece that isn’t necessarily accounted for when first analyzing the Rangers in a series.

Chris Drury has had a horrendous season.  Between battling injuries and a lack of production when he has been on the ice the Rangers captain has been written off by many.  What Drury can bring to the team is playoff experience, penalty killing, faceoffs and leadership.  Do not expect him to go out and produce a lot of points, but the intangibles he can bring are important to a team as young as the Rangers are.  In the right role, Drury can still be a valuable asset to this club in the playoffs.

Neither of these two players will win or lose the series by themselves, but in each series role players can find big moments to have an impact and both of these players, whether it be the skill of Wolski or the experience of Drury have the ability to change a game in one of those crucial moments.

Categories : Analysis, Playoffs
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Rangers Rout Devils 5-2, Now Hope For From Lightning

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The only thing the New York Rangers could control today was their own result against the New Jersey Devils and they did just that in a 5-2 win this afternoon. Now the Rangers playoff fate is in the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning as they need a win in either regulation or OT to put New York in as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Rangers won today with the type of collective effort that was sorely lacking on Thursday against Atlanta.

In a must win game the Rangers fell behind the Devils just 2:03 into the game on a goal from Nick Palmieri when he deflected an Ilya Kovakchuk shot through Henrik Lundqvist.

The nervousness in MSG reached another level, but the Rangers would respond just 1:11 later with a goal from Chris Drury. Drury drive the net hard and converted the rebound on his backhand. The goal was Drury’s first of the season on his first shift since February 3.

Kovakchuk capped off his dominant first period with a goal of his own,with 41.8 seconds left in the period. On the play he out muscled Prospal and ripped the shot high on Lundqvist. The goal gave the Devils a 2-1 lead at the end of one and drained a lot of energy out of MSG.

The energy came back quickly when Wojtek Wolski scored off the rush just 1:52 into the second period. The play was a 2-on-1 rush with Stepan down the left side wall. After looking like he would pass Wolski fired and beat Brodeur short side.

With the next goal critical Ryan McDonagh scored at 11:59 to give the Rangers their first lead of the game. The goal came when Vinny Prospal passed from behind the net to McDonagh at the right faceoff dot. The goal was McDonagh’s first of his career.

Brandon Prust extended the Rangers lead to 4-2 at 16:06 of the period. Prust converted the rebound from a Dubinsky shot. The goal capped an excellent three goal period that gives the Rangers control over their part if today’s action.

The Rangers kept up the pressure and extended to a 5-2 lead at 10:49 of the third on a goal from Vinny Prospal. Artem Anisimov broke down the right side on a 2-on-1 and fed a beauty across to Prospal for the finish.

Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh played excellent games and showed why this defense core will be one of the best in the league for years to come.

Brian Boyle set the tone hitting anything that moved and hurling himself in front of shots.

Have to give Drury credit with all the injuries and struggles his goal was crucial goal.

Categories : Game Wrap-ups
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Rangers 3-0 Loss To Thrashers Means Game 82 Will Decide It All Again.

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The storyline for the Rangers going into tonight’s game against Atlanta was simple.  Find a way to win and get the two critical points to push closer to locking up a playoff spot or lose control of your own fate and have Carolina in control of what happens.  Things are never that easy for the Rangers or their fans as by the time the final buzzer went the Garden was mainly emptied out and the result was a disgraceful 3-0 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.  Now the Rangers are left to scoreboard watch and hope that in game 82 they have a shot to get back some semblance of control with a win against the Devils.

The night started with tremendous emotion with the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award being awarded to Brandon Prust for his tremendous battle this year.  During the award ceremony Steven McDonald fired up the crowd telling the Thrashers, “We win, you lose.”   Regarding the playoffs McDonald added, “We may be one of the last ones in, but we will not be the first one out.”  Too bad the Rangers did not play that way on the ice tonight.

After a very good first five minutes of the game the Rangers were badly outplayed by an Atlanta team that had absolutely nothing to play for which is absolutely unacceptable consider what was on the line for New York. Both teams had chances in the first but the goaltending stood the tests.

At 7:42 of the second period Atlanta would get on the board with a goal from Rob Schremp after Henrik Lundqvist made multiple stops during the sequence. Schremp collected the loose puck in the slot and unlike the Rangers he finished his chance.  Just 15 seconds later the Thrashers would twist the knife a little deeper when Andrew Ladd broke down the left side and beat Lundqvist with a backhand shot.

The talk heading into the third was about the comeback against Boston on Monday, but that was more wishful thinking that anything based on this game.  Eric Boulton would finish off the hopes of that miracle comeback 4:19 into the third when he beat Marian Gaborik to the front of the net and tipped the puck up and over Lundqvist to make it 3-0.

The team made that miraculous comeback basically moot by handing over control of their destiny to Carolina who now with two wins and Buffalo with just one point can lock the Rangers out of the playoffs.

The only player that seemed to give a damn tonight was Henrik Lundqvist and for a tea that has prided themselves on effort all season that is embarrassing given the circumstances surrounding this game.


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McIlrath To Join Whale This Week

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According to the AHL transactions page , the Rangers have signed 2010 first round pick Dylan McIlrath to an Amateur Tryout (ATO) agreement with the Connecticut Whale. Per Brian Ring McIlrath is expected to report to the team this week. McIlrath, 18, had 5 goals, 18 assists and 153 penalty minutes in 62 games during the regular season for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL. In the playoffs McIlrath was scoreless in their six game first round defeat to the Kooteany Ice.

The ATO allows McIlrath to play with the team this season and during the playoffs without having any impact on his entry-level contract which officially starts next season. Dylan is allowed to play in the AHL despite being under 20 because his Junior team has finished their season, but next season he will have to either be in the NHL or back in the WHL.  Being around the professional game should be a very good experience for McIlrath and give him another sense of what it will take for him to be a professional player. Look for Wade Redden to take McIlrath under his wing as he has done with all the young defenders for the Whale this season.

Categories : Signings
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The initial response to the loss of Ryan Callahan indefinitely is to move Matt Gilroy from defense up to right wing and go with no spare forwards at the moment.  Gilroy has not played forward for any consistent time in years, so there is certainly some concern over the move and questions as to why there is not a callup for Kolarik, Zuccarello or even leaving Newbury here.  I agree that this seems like an awful time to start experimenting with new positions, but the reason this move might make more sense than a callup is coach John Tortorella has gone with mainly three lines for some time now.  Thinking in those terms one would have to figure Gilroy will be on the fourth line and playing very limited minutes at even strength anyway.

What putting Gilroy in the lineup does do is give Tortorella flexibility in terms of positioning if a defenseman is struggling on a given night as he could move Gilroy in his spot or rotate defense to lessen the ice load amongst the group.  Gilroy also has the ability to play the point on power play and having him as hybrid forward/defender with limited minutes would allow him to play that role without having to worry about any defensive concerns they have about him.  He has not been great on the point, but he has an upside for that position that could make it an option for the team in the short term.  Another potential move could be to double shift Gaborik more with Avery and Christensen as a way to get him more ice time and dictate some matchups.

If the Gilroy experiment isn’t working or the Rangers need more of a spark then the move can always be made later.  In the meantime I would expect the following lines for tomorrow’s practice:





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