Another game, another chance for the Rangers to distance themselves from the horror show that has been the first five games of 2008.
The law of averages say they will play better at some point, if for no other reason than they may be chased out of town if they don’t. The question is if a team that has appeared so fragile of late is prepared for that tonight.
“I think what we’re doing right now is we’re playing not to lose as opposed to playing to win, and I think we’ve got to be able to embrace that,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “It doesn’t matter what the function of your line is or your pair or what point in the game it is, we have to be proactive. We have to play the game on our toes, and that as much as anything is important to us right now.”
<li>Martin Straka is in, and will start out as expected with his usual linemates Jaromir Jagr and Scott Gomez. Renney said he’s concerned about Straka’s endurance to sustain a full shift, so keep an eye on out to see if he ever stays on the ice too long.
<li>Brendan Shanahan is out, and there’s no chance of an 11th hour change of heart as there was on Tuesday. The plan is to rest the wing tonight in order to return Monday in Pittsburgh.
<li>Scheduling oddity: tonight marks only the second time since 1964 — and the first time since 1995 — that the Rangers are hosting Montreal on a Saturday night.
<li>Brace yourself for a change at defense. Marek Malik is back in, and he’s returning to the side of his old partner Michal Rozsival. Not only that, but Renney is breaking up the Lennon-McCartney pairing of Dan Girardi and Fedor Tyutin so Girardi will play with Marc Staal and Tyutin will with Paul Mara. The coach’s reasoning? To at least briefly shake the defensemen out of their comfort zone.
“It puts everyone’s senses right on the surface,” Renney said. “The idea is to make sure we do stay alert and there is some communication.”
The coach added the pairing switch is likely only to be a quick fix, so expect at least one of those pairings to be restored soon.
<li>Sean Avery isn’t yet day-to-day, but Renney said the wing will skate in the morning skate on Monday just to test out his wrist.