Rangers vs. Coyotes Preview. By Mike Feruzzi
New York Rangers at Phoenix Coyotes. Saturday December 17th 2011
Game Time: 8:00pm ET
A-very good time for a change?
The New York Rangers are coming off two straight losses as they travel further west tonight leaving St. Louis behind for a tilt with Phoenix in the desert. John Tortorellas’ squad needs to get back on track if they want to avoid their first 3 game losing streak since they opened the season in Sweden. Having scored only 1 goal in their last six periods of hockey the onus is going to be on the offense to break out of its mini slump.
The top two lines have been near invisible in the offensive zone the past two games but each line has a dynamic duo that can break out at any moment. Derek Stepan, in only his second season, has done an admirable job in matching pace with speedster Marian Gaborik and the two have teamed up for some big goals for the Rangers’. Brad Richards has certainly paired nicely with Ryan Callahan on line two, an outcome that has allowed John Tortorella to separate Richards and Gaborik for a little bit of scoring depth the Rangers’ desperately have needed. If Brandon Dubinsky can get going the team might just have the depth it needs to be a contender.
On the defensive front, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonough have done an excellent job on the top pair logging ironman minutes with Marc Staal and Michael Sauer still out of the lineup. Michael Del Zotto is having a resurgence of sorts playing a solid game on both sides of the puck. If the minutes don’t begin to wear these guys down this could be a top unit if and when Staal and Sauer get back.
Phoenix has dropped 5 of its last 8 games and I would love to see Sean Avery get back in the lineup tonight. The team record with Avery in the lineup this season is 11-3-1. Not to shabby. Now I’m not saying Avery brings so much that he takes the team to another level but I am saying he brings something different that seems to spark the team, if even just for spurts. Two stale performances in a row may warrant that spark.
- Phoenix goalie Mike Smith should be in net tonight going for his 15th win of the season. This would set a new season high in wins for him and we’re still in December.
- The Coyotes’ roster features ex-blueshirts Michael Rozsival, Derek Morris, Lauri Korpikoski and Jason LaBarbera.
- Expect to see Henrik Lundqvist back between the pipes for the Rangers to try and right the ship.
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