Chris Drury was asked yesterday if it’s at all difficult to focus on hockey with Christmas rapidly approaching.
“It’s almost easier because everyone’s in such a good mood getting ready for the holidays,” the Rangers captain said. “It’s the other down times when you feel like the season’s dragging and there’s no end in sight when you lose focus a little more.”
This brings us to tonight against the Capitals. If the Rangers can build on their relatively strong play on the West Coast, they are permitted to enter the two-day Christmas break a festive mood. If they fall victim to Alexander Ovechkin and Co. by suffering the infamous first-game-back-from-a-road-trip letdown, then I recommend coal in all their stockings.
OK, so that’s a little harsh, but the point is this is a crucial juncture in the Rangers season. With Mats Sundin “no longer a possibility”:http://www.lohud.com/article/20081223/SPORTS01/812230367/-1/SPORTS, it’s up to the current players to make the argument that the team is better off without him. It may be a stretch, but compare it to another near-acquisition of a mammoth center, one who was also supposed to put the Rangers over the top. When this franchise lost out on Eric Lindros in that famous Larry Bertuzzi ruling back in 1992, it was supposed to be a devastating setback, Instead, it was an event that indirectly helped pave the way for the 1994 Stanley Cup.
No, I’m not saying this team is ready for that. But what I am saying, to quote that great Czech philosopher Jaromir Jagr, is that when one door closes, another usually opens.
Some other notes:
Update, 11 a.m.: Same lineup and lines tonight against the Capitals. Nikolai Zherdev and Dmitri Kalinin both skated today after missing practice yesterday with illness.
The Capitals, meanwhile, are missing a number of players, including Mike Green (shoulder), Tom Poti (groin), Alexander Semin (back) and Sergei Fedorov (ankle).
Donald Brashear and Dave Steckel are both questionable.