We don’t know yet for sure whether Petr Prucha will play tonight against the hapless Panthers, although that sounds like a possibility.
What we do know is that if Prucha plays, expectations should be kept fairly low after eight games out of the lineup.
And that’s the problem. While it’s very possible that Prucha simply isn’t the player he was when he scored 52 goals in his first two seasons in the league, at least some of his regression has to do with how he’s been handled. If he plays tonight or maybe even Sunday and doesn’t do much, chances are he’ll be back in the press box before long. And then his confidence will sag to the point that when he’s thrown back into the fray again, he’s still not going to have much to offer.
Stop me if you’re noticing a trend.
Could a conditioning assignment in Hartford help? Sure. Any player can benefit from playing, especially one who hasn’t seen a puck go off his stick and into the net in what feels like an eternity. But if that was the magic formula, why hadn’t the Rangers considered this earlier? Maybe because they don’t think it’s going to get them much beyond where they are right now.
No, the easiest solution for the Rangers is to simply commit one way or the other: Play Prucha on a regular basis and help him work his way back into serviceable form. Or take whatever it is another team is offering and allow the player the benefit of a fresh start.
The business of hockey is such that you don’t owe your players any special treatment, especially ones that make $1.6 million for basically skating extra sprints after practice. But the team also isn’t doing itself any favors by allowing the current cycle to continue.
Update, 7 p.m.: No Prucha “tonight after all.”:http://njmg.typepad.com/rangersblog/ The lineup stays the same.