---Tonight's game against the Penguins is a game that is affectionately known as a trap game. Not trap as in the Devil's infamous, boring trap. But trap as in, this is a game we should win so why get too excited. Why is that so for tonight? Well, the Rangers have just come off of an emotionally charged loss in OT against the Flyers and the Penguins are still smarting from the 7-1 trouncing the Rangers inflicted on them in the Garden last Saturday.
This need not and should not happen. However, Tom Renney should make some changes for tonight. Steve Rucchin seems to be performing better in the locker room than he is on ice. Renney made this great announcement when he arrived about how the Rangers needed a man his size and skill for center ice. I will not repeat what I said at that time how we had the guy but management didn't like his mouth. The players must have liked him they voted him MVP in the 2003-04 season. But I won't repeat what I said for fear my son will accuse me of senility. Besides, how many hits has Rucchin laid on the opposition this year? Go look it up, if it is more than 20 I will be shocked. Remember we have played 49 games. How many hits would that 2003-04 MVP with the big mouth have had this year?
The Rangers insist on playing Marcel Hossa, in place of Ryan Hollweg, in the hopes that he develops into another scorer. Fine. However, Hollweg is desperately needed back on the HMO line. There is no H (HITS) in the HMO line without Hollweg. It is essential that this line stays together for the passion and aggressiveness they bring to the team. So bench Rucchin. Renney benched Nylander for committing 4 penalties in one game and look how solid he has played all year. How many games do you bench a player for being a no show?
I would leave the first line intact. Nylander centering for Jagr and Straka is clicking quite well. Put Prucha at center between Rucinsky and Ward. Center would be a much better position for Prucha who loves to roam and has a great wrist shot. Ward has been picking up his game lately and Rucinsky seems to be showing some signs of life. This would be the second line.
On the third line I would use Sykora as the center between Niemenin and Hossa. If Hossa has the potential the experts think he has he should blossom on this line. Niemenin has been a dare devil the last few games, annoying and constantly on the move. He needs to cut down on the lazy tripping penalties to be a more effective player. Sykora slowly has been getting into the offense and centering his own line gives him the chance to show his many offensive skills.
Finally the HMO line of Hollweg, Moore and Ortmeyer. If you don't know what these guys do, there is no sense in me trying to explain them. Like one guy once said about a religous subject. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible. For those who do believe no explanation is necessary. Those are my thoughts on the HMO, with Hollweg, line.
The defense is another story which we will address at another time. The every ready battery is wearing down. Pock must be brought up and used as the seventh defenseman, as a starter, to give the Maliks, Rozsivals and Strudwicks a night off. Kaspy, Tyutin and Poti don't need the rest. Sorry anti-Poti gang, the guy has improved his game. But it is not great, it is just ok. He needs to be traded because he will never rise to what we hope he should be, a move the puck, play the point on the PP and become an offensive force. A Brad Park or Brian Leetch he will never be. Only in Glen Sather's dreams.
So there we have it for tonight. This might arrive a little late for Renney to read and implement these moves, but he has to be seeing what is happening on the ice. Or in Rucchin's case, what is not happening. We have a wonderful stock of young players in Hartford that are performing quite well.
There is an excellent Hartford Wolfpack website, HartfordWolfPack.com, and blog (sidearm delivery) that Ranger fans should read to see what is on the horizon and how rosy the future looks. You can also find them on the right hand side of my blog. To give the devil his due, Glen Sather must be complimented for assembling a fine collection of prospects. Kudos also to Jim Schonfield for his excellent coaching and development of these youngsters.
One of our readers made this comparison-
The "Lurch" Defenseman and crypt defender Marek Malik: