You figured it was only a matter of time before there was a crack in Brendan Shanahan’s facade, and sure enough, there was the perennial All-Star at his locker stall today, openly complaining about…..the lack of hangers at Madison Square Garden. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but what’s next, weak water pressure? Bland post-game food?
Speaking of which, talk about empty nets. While Shanahan was lamenting the lack of hangers, what I should have said was, “What are you talking about? You guys have Jagr.” Of course, the big fella was standing right there, so I thought better — especially after Jagr had already smashed a piece of plexiglass with a slapshot during practice. I guess that shoulder’s feeling better.
Anyway, the Rangers are hopping a flight to Buffalo shortly for their regular season-finale against the indomitable Sabres, and odds are the lineup is going to have a different look. Among the changes:
With Jason Ward nursing an ankle injury, the Rangers are preparing for rookie Ryan Callahan to make his NHL debut on a fourth line alongside Ryan Hollweg and Colton Orr. That’s subject to change, but Callahan is at least making the trip instead of heading back to Hartford. For what it’s worth, the 21-year-old right wing is from nearby Rochester, and I asked Tom Renney if that would at all be a factor in whether he plays tomorrow. The short answer: “No.”
Of greater significance, if Ward is out, Renney would likely drop Petr Prucha onto a third line with Blair Betts and Marcel Hossa. The coach said it wasn’t necessarily a reflection of Prucha’s play — the left wing has just five goals thus far, and none since Nov. 10 at Atlanta — but even Matt Cullen admitted the second line was in need of a jumpstart. Speaking of which…
Fresh off his two-goal game against the Thrashers, Adam Hall would get the promotion to the second line alongside Cullen and Shanahan. Renney had played those three together for stretches of the third period on Tuesday and he liked what he saw. Whether it would be just a one-game deal or something long term remains to be seen. But in Hall’s case, talk about a quick reversal.
Kevin Weekes is likely to be the starter, and why not? The back-up hasn’t had a laugher this year. Of the five games he’s played, two were against the Sabres, and he’s had one each against Anaheim, San Jose, and the defending Stanley Cup-champion Hurricanes. And I thought I had a thankless job (not really).
One last little tidbit: I talked to both Renney and Thomas Pock about the forgotten defenseman’s lack of playing time, and it sounds like a conditioning assigment in Hartford is a consideration. Pock had originally said he’d rather be practicing in the NHL than playing in the minors, but judging from our conversation today, he might be having second thoughts. And it sounds like Renney would be for it as well.