Morning skate update, 11:57 a.m.: So much for resting players. Brendan Shanahan will go back in alongside Scott Gomez and Sean Avery. Petr Prucha will go back to the fourth line with Fred Sjostrom and Ryan Hollweg, and Henrik Lundqvist will get another start in net.
The lone holdout is Blair Betts, who Tom Renney said wants to return, but needs another day of conditioning. Betts is likely for Sunday.
More from the Garden later…
The Rangers are only expecting a skeleton crew at the skate this morning now that they have the trivial matter of locking up a playoff spot out of the way.
Tom Renney has decisions to make on Brendan Shanahan and Blair Betts, as well as whether he gives Stephen Valiquette the start in goal. The coach hinted before the game last night that he might sit Shanahan out another game if the Rangers had secured a spot, and I don’t see why not: it’s a chance for not only Shanahan to get healthy, but also for Petr Prucha to get back his own game a bit before the playoffs — especially if he’s a long-term replacement for Colton Orr.
As for Valiquette, it makes sense to give him another start just to keep him sharp. As much as you might not want to think about it, teams occasionally need their backup goalie in the playoffs.
But Renney was noncommittal on the matter last night, and seeing how home-ice still looms on the horizon, he may not want to leave anything left to chance.
And now a few words on the playoffs, the blog, and mankind in general:
Loyal readers of the blog may recall last year that I skipped out on the last week of the regular season to cover the Masters, the scheduling quirk a byproduct of my “dual responsibilities at The Journal News”:http://golf.lohudblogs.com/. But at least then I was back to cover the Rangers in the playoffs from start to finish, and didn’t miss much.
Well, this year the conflict is even worse, with the Masters beginning next Thursday and concluding Sunday evening. Curiously enough, I didn’t notice the problem until midway through the hockey season, and the Rangers were still very much a disjointed group.
“You might not even have to worry about it,” a couple of observers said to me.
Well, now I do. I’m headed to Augusta Monday morning, and don’t come back until the following Monday, meaning I will miss hopefully no more than two games but possibly three. Obviously the blog will be manned in my absence so other than missing my whimsical references to my own recreational hockey career, this will have minimal impact on you. It just might not be the ideal way for me to start what could be a long playoff run.
Of course, if the 23-year-old version of me ever learned I would be complaining about having to cover the Masters 10 years later, I’m pretty sure he’d be disappointed (he’d also ask, “Hey, when did your forehead expand?” and “Whose kids are those?”). And believe me, I’m not complaining. I have a great gig, and at a time in the newspaper industry when everyone’s cutting back, I’m fortunate that my paper continues to give me such plum assignments (yes, that’s needless pandering to the bosses, but also true).
The problem is I simply can’t be in two places at once, and as much as I love covering a simple regular season hockey game, the playoffs represent this sport at its best.
But hey, I’m not leaving yet, and by the time this run is over, it may end up being only two games of a very long spring for your Rangers.
More in a bit…