Thursday, May 01, 2008

Rangers Retool For Game 4

The Rangers are being forced to adjust going into game four in a series against the Penguins which has been just short of a disaster.

Sean Avery and Blair Betts will not be playing in game four. Avery is still in intensive care as of Thursday morning being treated for a lacerated spleen. Betts is recovering from a concussion after taking a puck to the face during game three. He will also be undergoing surgery on the fractured orbital bone near his left eye this weekend.

A familiar face in Petr Prucha will likely get playing time in the absence of Avery, but it will be a new face to replace Betts in Lauri Korpikoski. Korpikoski was the Ranger's nineteenth overall pick in the 2004 draft. In 79 games this season he scored 23 goals and added 27 assists.

Chris Drury is also questionable for tonights game. He injured his ribs during game three and finished the game so if you're betting, bet that he'll be in this one tonight. If he isn't than both Ryan Hollweg and Colton Orr will be in the lineup tonight. It is possible that they will both be in the lineup regardless if Prucha is a scratch.

Another move the Rangers are making is removing Christian Backman from the lineup. The slow Backman has been largely ineffective against the speedy Penguins lineup. He is plus-one during the series, but the defense has played poorly during two games and Tom Renney must think that having the slightly faster Jason Strudwick will benefit the team. He will be teamed up with Paul Mara according to Steve Zipay's blog.

The Rangers are also going to have to focus on killing off penalties better. In three games the Pens have scored three powerplay goals and they have each been the difference in the games.

In game one Evgeni Malkin's powerplay goal, or should I say the puck that bounced off Malkin, turned out to be the game winner. In game two Jordan Staal was the only player to score on a goalie during a second period power play. And it was Malkin again scoring the game winner in game three on the power play.

To do this the Rangers desperately need to stay out of the penalty box. They have received 46 penalty minutes over three games and the only chance they've got to win this series is to half that over the next four. If they are that lucky.

The Rangers are not only a slower team than the Penguins with less offensive weapons, but they are now battered and beaten. While they can still win this series, it will take nothing short of a miracle for them to move on.

In The Dirt's projected lineup:
Straka – Dubinsky - Jagr
Shanahan - Gomez - Callahan
Dawes – Drury - Prucha
Hollweg – Korpitoski - Sjostrom


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