In an 82-game schedule, I’m reluctant to call anything a BIG GAME until at least March. But this is different. This is indeed a BIG GAME, and contains all the requisite elements of any BIG GAME: anxious-looking players, an anxious-looking coach, throngs of fans waiting outside the Garden in hopes of securing an autograph from their favorite reporters.
OK, I’m obviously making that last one up. But you understand what I’m saying. What more can you ask for? Two Original Six teams tied in the standings, each jockeying for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs. Heck, even I have some butterflies. Or that might just be the leftover jambalaya I had for lunch. Come to think of it, it’s probably that.
Anyway, some updates:
With Michal Rozsival out, count on Karel Rachunek assuming most of his countryman’s power play work. Tom Renney allowed that Matt Cullen and others could see some time as well at the point, but as has been the case all year, he’s reluctant to have Cullen and Martin Straka on the backline at the same time, seeing how neither is a defenseman.
More from Renney on Ryan Hollweg, who like Rozsival, will be missing his first game of the year: “To me, his game has just slipped a little bit. He’s not the same player with the puck that he needs to be. He does the right things with it when he doesn’t have plays. But the bottom line is you still have to make plays coming out of your end. That along with the fact that he’s really squeezing the stick, I think this really gives him an opportunioty to take a step back.”
Renney also allowed, as I surmised earlier, that Hollweg’s lack of offensive production has begun to trickle down to other parts of his game. I’m still of the belief that this is a short-term issue. But it’s worth following up on nonetheless.
Matt Cullen and Aaron Ward have indeed been given the green light to join their former Carolina Hurricanes teammates for a visit to the White House on Friday. Word is the Commander-in-Chief is planning on pulling the two aside to talk about the Rangers’ defensive zone coverage.