For the first time since the second game of the season, the Rangers could be completely healthy for Thursday’s meeting with the Islanders. Of course, “completely healthy” is a myth in the NHL — more on that in a bit — but at the very least, they could have all of their players active.
What they do, or don’t do, remains in play. For instance:
Ryan Callahan is back ready to play and sounded like he expects to return Thursday, most likely on a line with Chris Drury and Petr Prucha where he skated today. Tom Renney also conceded that Callahan was ready, but stopped short of saying he would definitely be in against the Isles, and even said a conditioning assignment in Hartford was a possibility. But that sounds like Renney just erring on the side of caution, so I would expect to see Callahan back at the Garden Thursday. As for where he would play….
Obviously if Drury is at center with Callahan and Prucha, that means Brandon Dubinsky will remain at center between Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka. This was an issue after Sunday, when Renney had put Drury in that spot late in the game. But the coach said he still likes what he’s seeing from Dubinsky with Jagr, and that Drury’s style differs at least slightly from the Captain.
Where things get even more interesting is with Marek Malik, who also is now fit and ready to return, but who might still have to wait.
“The way we’re clicking now, Harry might just have to wait a game or two and see if anything evolves where we want to put him in if someone’s having a tough night or heaven forbid, there’s an injury,” Renney said. “But he’s ready to go and that’s the main thing.”
The reason this is intriguing is that there was a time — much to the puzzlement of many of you — that Malik’s spot in the lineup was a given as long as he was healthy. And while I do think he’s a more effective player than Jason Strudwick, I’m not sure Renney is ready to split up the pairing of Michal Rozsival and Marc Staal, who continue to show progress together. That would likely leave Malik with Paul Mara, and Renney might be reluctant to go there.
Meanwhile, through all of this it looks like Marcel Hossa would be the odd man out based on practice today. But it was hard to tell given that both Brendan Shanahan and Sean Avery both skipped practice. Avery had a CAT scan on his wrist to assess the damage from the blocked shot last week against Tampa, but also because of some lingering issues from years past. Shanahan had a sore back, but was still working out in the weight room.
It’s a lot to process. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves…