For weeks now we’ve been talking about the difficult personnel decisions the Rangers face in constructing their opening night roster, almost all of it having to do with prospects.
What we didn’t count on was the erratic play of a veteran like Darius Kasparaitis. Still nursing injuries to his shoulder and his groin, Kasparaitis has been only a shell of the player who had been one of the Rangers’ most visible and reliable defensemen last year, not to mention one of the team’s most charismatic figures in the locker room. Through the preseason, Kasparaitis was again visible, but often because he was coughing up the puck or caught out of position.
The fall-out has been fairly quick: on Friday night, Kasparaitis skated without the “A” on his sweater that he wore all of last year; and Saturday afternoon, he skated a meager 11 minutes.
Is to say the defenseman is on the outs with the team? Maybe we shouldn’t go that far. On several occasions, Tom Renney has referred to the “emotional baggage” Kasparaitis has been carrying around in the wake of his groin injury (a recent divorce hasn’t helped in that department, either), but that he expects the player to recover soon enough.
The question is, is soon enough this Thursday, when the Rangers open the season against the Capitals? Therein lies the dilemma of the hour. If the past week has been any indication, Kasparaitis might well be a scratch for the season opener. But that might be just the wake-up call he needs to get himself back into shape.