Actually, there doesn't seem to be a sense of panic among Rangers watchers after two straight bad loses and nor should there be. As the team rolled to a 10-2-1, there was no doubt there would be rough patches during the season. What's been surprising is how glaring the rough patches have been - a five-goal barrage by the Toronto Maple Leafs and two shorthanded goals by the Islanders that has further focused the spotlight on the Rangers anemic power play.
In the pre-salary cap days, no doubt the team would be looking to make a move right now for a goal scorer and a defenseman for the power play. But salary cap constraints makes a move right now very difficult, even figuring out how to fit a free agent like Mats Sundin into the team's salary structure is enough to induce headaches (it would likely take removing the salaries of Petr Prucha ($1.6 million), Patrick Rissmiller ($1 million) plus one more noteworthy salary like Dmitri Kalinin ($2.1 million) or Paul Mara ($1.9 million), add that to whatever space the team currently has (estimated around $700,000) then subtracting the minimal salaries the Rangers would need to replenish the roster with guys from Hartford like D Corey Potter). Then, Sundin would have to want to play for considerably less than the two years, $20 million the Vancouver Canucks are offering.
In short, while the Rangers will be mentioned as a Sundin suitor until the day he signs, it has to be considered a long shot.
As for tomorrow's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning (a much better team now than they were in Prague, especially with Vincent Lecavalier back in game shape), there are not likely to be seismic changes to the lineup, either in the line combinations or the power play personnel. I asked Marc Staal today when he makes his push to be on the power play and he just said there were too many talented defensemen ahead of him in the pecking order. He did admit to really enjoying playing on the power play when he was in juniors. I'll say it agaiin that eventually I'd like to see him get a shot.
Lots of power-play discussion at today's skate and coach Tom Renney did say he would be meeting with Nikolai Zherdev one-on-one as the coach and player continue to try and forge a good balance between Zherdev's offensive (ahem) creativity and the coach's need to have him play somewhat within the system.
Honestly, in last night's third period, I didn't necessarily mind how Zherdev wanted the puck on his stick as he tried to take on all five Islanders' skaters, seemingly, but almost. At that moment, my thought was at least here's a guy who wants to make a difference. Because after the Islanders scored their second shorthanded goal, the Rangers, as a collective unit, just shrank and did not respond.
And for those of you wondering, Renney was no longer (peeved) off this morning. For the rest of you Rangers' fans, I'm guessing, it's going to take a win over the Lightning tomorrow to get over Tuesday.