Things pretty much the same here at The Rock from this morning's skate, no updates to give as we get near game time. This game is being portrayed as Marian Gaborik vs. old coach Jaques Lemaire and that is as much a simplification as last season when it was Sean Avery vs. Martin Brodeur.
Lines and defense pairs can be found in this post.
Without anything new to report, thought I'd get to a couple of questions posted earlier in the comments.
As to the bigger picture for the Rangers, I don't necessarily see this as a transition season - it certainly shouldn't take a full season to grasp the Tortorella system, particularly since some of the core of the group had nearly two months with it last season. I say it's not a transition because by bringing in Marian Gaborik, the Rangers once again positioned themselves as a team that - in its own mind, at least - was a serious playoff contender. At the risk of disappointing some of you, I don't think this team is among the elite in the Eastern Conference (Penguins, Capitals, Bruins, perhaps the Hurricanes, perhaps the Flyers). So, based on that, yes, this team is probably looking at a 6-8 playoff seed. That said, I don't see the Rangers finishing outside the playoff picture, not buying the prediction of this team finishing 13th in the conference based on these ifs: Gaborik stays healthy, Lundqvist plays at his level or above and the defense proves adequate.
As for the group introduction prior to Saturday's game, I'll admit, I might have been a little slow to realize the implications. At the time, honestly, I thought it was a cool thing to do. Have seen some NFL teams do it and, personally, I like the message it sends. In retrospect, yes, it did protect some players - Redden, Rozsival, Brashear, Drury - from being booed on home ice. Do not believe this is something John Tortorella has done with any frequency, if at all, prior to Saturday. In fact, we were kind of hard-pressed to remember any other such instance.
Will be updating as the game draws near as will my colleague, Tom Gulitti, on his blog, Fire and Ice. If you remember, when Ranger Rants started last season, it got shutout in comments going up against Fire and Ice in one of the first Rangers-Devils games from last season. Feeling much better about Ranger Rants' chances in winning the all-important most comments battle going into tonight's game.
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STARTERS: Rangers: Lundqvist; Redden-Gilroy; Prospal-Dubinsky-Gaborik. Devils: Brodeur; Martin-Oduya, Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner.
Pre-Game: Don't know if it means anything, or if they're all really here. But there's 16 scouts listed from 14 teams on the press box seating chart.
:48 First period: Tough first defensive shift for Matt Gilroy and Wade Redden. More Gilroy, though. He had a chance to clear and couldn't.
1:10 First period: Rangers look lost defensively in their own end, can't control the puck. Rob Niedermayer makes them pay with shot from right faceoff circle.
1:24 First period: Tortorella has seen enough, already, calling a timeout. Not a bad timeout. I like a pro-active coach. And the more he yells at the players, the less steam he blows off at the media (just kidding. Sort of.).
1:54 First period: First PK unit: Staal-Girardi, Gaborik-Dubinsky.
6:31 First period: As I'd written about the power play, it was a matter of time. This is what shooting on net gets you - wide-open opportunities. Prospal from the right with a hard shot that Brodeur can't control. The weak-side rebound goes to Michael Del Zotto, and he gets his second in two games. He had all the time in the world to shoot at all the net in the world.
7:23 First period: Second power play unit remains constant as well: Higgins-Dubinsky-Lisin, Staal-Gilroy.
10:52 First period: Excellent passing sequence by the Devils makes the Rangers look a step and a half slow and leads to Travis Zajac's power-play goal as the Rangers trail 2-1. This is easily the Rangers' worst defensive period of the season so far.
16:18 First period: OK, everybody, no comments about Drury's fighting skills. Oduya jumps him in the Devils end after Drury has a dangerous collision with Martin.
16:23 First period: Del Zotto feeds Kotalik for a blast from the left that beats a splitting Brodeur. Never mind the Flyers game on Saturday, Marty hasn't exactly looked like he's in mid-season form, even if it was a blistering shot. You expect him to make those kinds of saves, especially when he gets a good look at the puck.
First intermission: Finding it hard to believe I'm watching a Rangers-Devils game. This is certainly not the neutral zone-trapping Jacques Lemaire of his first go-round with the Devils. And I'll refrain from the temptation to call this a run-and-gun game since Tortorella specifically said Saturday he doesn't coach run-and-gun. He's right here. It's 2-2 because Brodeur hasn't been great, three of the goals have come on the power play and the Rangers' defense has been shaky, at best. Both power plays are 1 for 3. Devils outshooting the Rangers, 9-7. And, seriously, thanks for being so chatty with the comments, it's much appreciated. Thanks for responding so quickly.
1:50 Second period: Fantastic cross-ice pass by Prospal, unfortunate bounce for Rangers as Gaborik couldn't control it cutting to the net on the left wing. Prospal froze the defense as to whether he would pass or shoot.
6:10 Second period: Again on the Prospal bandwagon, good defensive stickwork by him - twice - in breaking up a Devils' rush.
7:07 Second period: Sure Torts said something during intermission. Much better defensive effort in this period.
9:48 Second period: Lisin hits iron but puck doesn't go in for a third PP goal. Just prior, a subtle play by Gilroy that I thought was good. Skating in the right faceoff circle, Gilroy delayed his shot for a split second and picked a spot short side. I'd imagine most rookies would just shoot without being picky in that spot.
11:55 Second period: Ouch. Rookie mistake? Del Zotto takes a bad tripping penalty 23 seconds into a Rangers' power play.
14:43 Second period: Still maintain it's either hooking or diving. Can't be both.
16:11 Second period: Lundqvist very sharp in the second period. His glove save on Murphy is his 10th of the period.
17:50 Second period: Now both rookie d-men have goals as Matt Gilroy gets his first NHL goal. Again, he picked a spot and shot at it, beating Brodeur five-hole.
Second intermission: Carrying a one-goal lead into the third period, this is now in the category of you have to get at least one point out of this. Frankly, the Rangers looked much better than the Devils in the second period, even if both teams still look like they're running around a little bit. Devils lead in shots, 21-19. I'd expect John Tortorella to shorten his bench again, probably defensively, too. He did it a bit for a stretch in the first period, keeping the rookies off the ice. Problem is, they're both really good offensively, you almost need them out there.
:37 Third period: Penalty parade continues as Girardi is called for boarding Parise. The Devils take a timeout to set up what should be a crucial power play.
1:22 Third period: We've just hit 100 comments for the first time in Ranger Rants history. You guys are the best.
5:51 Third period: So far, the lines and d-pairs are remaining the same.
7:19 Third period: Rangers have just two shots so far this period, one from center ice. The Devils have three.