Plenty of ground to cover and not much time to do it, so let’s start right in:
Colton Orr is set to return to the lineup, in large part to counter the physical Leafs (who issued a beat-down of the first order last night against Carolina). But what’s most telling is who’s coming out: Ryan Hollweg. Granted, Tom Renney never said as much, but seeing how Hollweg and Jason Ward were the last two players on the ice after the morning skate, this isn’t exactly Sherlock Holmes territory. And what Renney did say is the player coming out is someone in need of a breather.
“I think it’s a really important for a real deep breath here because it’s not quite gone as he had hoped and myself,” Renney said. “But he’s a very valuable part of our team, let’s leave it at that. He just needs a break.”
Indeed, while this is certainly noteworthy given Hollweg’s popularity both inside and outside the Rangers’ dressing room, I don’t get the sense that this is a long-term issue. It might be fatigue. It might be that Hollweg’s game is just a little off. And while no one has delusions of Hollweg being anything more than a grinder, it might be worth noting that he’s the only player on the team who had played every game without scoring a point (I have to check this, but he might even be the only one in the league).
All that said, my educated guess is that Renney is using tonight to light a fire under Hollweg, and that the wing comes back even harder on Saturday.
Michal Rozsival is out of the lineup tonight with a knee sprain, meaning Thomas Pock will indeed return to the lineup. Tom Renney indicated Rozsival is likely to return Saturday in Tampa, but in the meantime, Karel Rachunek will take his place alongside Marek Malik, while Pock will skate with Aaron Ward. The promising pairing of Dan Girari and Fedor Tyutin will remain intact.
You would think that a humbling 9-2 loss to Toronto in December might be a topic of conversation when the teams reconvene tonight. Renney has decided otherwise. The drubbing against the Maple Leafs was what triggered the seven game losing streak, and the coach figures there’s no reason to revisit the most self-destructive portion of the season. That said, I’m sure players still have that game fresh in their minds.
Pray for no shootout, if only for radio man Kenny Albert, who has a 10:45 game of his own tonight in Hackensack, and still has aspirations of getting there in time. Just imagine, if one team scores in the closing seconds of regulation to force overtime, we might hear our first profanity-laced tirade of the season.