Tom Renney lent credence today to something many of us already suspected, that Karel Rachunek’s return to the lineup next week is likely to come at the expense of Thomas Pock.
(Thanks to Ernie Palladino for passing along the latest on this. I was at practice for all of 20 minutes before the dual responsibilities of child-rearing and lawn re-seeding came calling).
“They’re all tough decisions at this time of year,” Renney said. “We want to play the best hockey we can, and if it’s at the expense of a current roster player, so be it. We have a culture here where that player won’t be happy with it. But he will accept it.
This break, Renney said, has been particularly beneficial to Rachunek, to the point that he most likely will be in the lineup for Game 1 of the second round.
“There are some guys who have some credit, some money in the bank. And of course the younger guys have to keep playing well,” Renney said. “In the case of Tommy, he’s a young player who might have to sit out. It’s a matter of who strengthens our team.”
A few thoughts on this:
For most of the season I was hardly Rachunek’s biggest fan, often considering him a liability. But there’s no question that his play did improve, coincidentally or not, after the deadline trade of his partner Aaron Ward. In the time directly before he got hurt, when he was paired with Paul Mara, Rachunek was actually quite impressive. Specifically there was the stellar job he did on Sidney Crosby on March 1, and then his hand in both of the Rangers’ third period goals in their come-from-behind win against the Blues on March 3.
Pock, meanwhile, has also improved as the season has gone on. If we’re going to talk about big goals, a number of players have pointed to Pock’s crucial late goal against the Bruins on March 24, which helped the Rangers get into overtime, and then win in a shootout. Pock himself readily admitted he was shaky in his first career playoff game against the Thrashers last Thursday. But he showed more confidence as the series carried on, and I thought he was particularly sharp in Game 3. Naturally, the Rangers’ recent re-signing of the Austrian suggests they see him as part of their future.
So now the question is: can a player miss a month of action and still be effective? In Brendan Shanahan, we’ve seen a player make only slow progress, to the point where only now does he look like his old self. But in both Fedor Tyutin and Marcel Hossa, both of whom of course had the exact same injury as Rachunek, we’ve seen two players who hardly looked like they skipped a beat.
If anything, the sheer volume of the above entry proves I need to get a life.
OK, back to yard work.