A couple of quick hits from the morning skate:
— With Darius Kasparaitis back tonight against the Devils, it means Thomas Pock is a scratch. I know what you’re going to say: why would you sit a guy who has been one of the Rangers’ few encouraging defenseman thus far? In short, blame Pock’s parents for making him a left-handed shooter, which puts him on the same side as Kasparaitis. The other left-handed options to sit out were Marek Malik and Fedor Tyutin, neither of whom have been confused with Bobby Orr of late. But since both have at least a little more experience than Pock, they’ll play. Kasparaitis, meanwhile, will skate in Pock’s place alongside Karel Rachunek.
Let’s revisit this topic after tonight…
— Nigel Dawes returns to the lineup tonight on the fourth line alongside Jason Ward and Marcel Hossa. Even when he’s in the lineup, ice time remains a struggle for Dawes, but the hope is he’ll see some time cleaning up after penalty kills, or even on a second or third power play unit. Tom Renney talked about making the rookie do a “task” while he sat out the the last two games. For the record, the coach said it did not involve picking up his dry cleaning.
— Don’t look now, but the start of Sandis Ozolinsh’s season might be sooner than you think. Renney said the maligned defenseman, who is recovering from knee surgery, has been working hard and is within games of returning. I know some of you have concerns about Ozolinsh, but let me ask you this: can the defense be much worse right now?
–Yes, Henrik Lundqvist is back in net, and I thought the goaltender has looked pretty sharp in practice the last two days. Of course, the the Rangers as a whole have looked good in practice all season, so maybe we shouldn’t be placing too much stock in that department.
— The question about protecting Jagr is a good one. Here’s the problem: the Rangers are not in a position to take anymore penalties than they already have been, especially late in games. But that’s where a player like Kasparaitis, who is proficient at clean, hard hits, might come into play.