The Rangers get much needed time off and are getting healthy again
The Rangers lost a horrible game to the Islanders on Sunday night and stole two points against an underwhelming Buffalo Sabres team on Tuesday night. Fortunately, the Rangers will benefit from a nice four day break before their next game: Saturday at Detroit.
As lots of the talk has been, the Rangers have caught the injury bug with Marc Staal and Henrik Lundqvist being sidelined with spasm injuries: back and neck, respectively. Those two joined Rick Nash on the inactive list. Nash, who suffered a deep bone bruise hasn’t played since leaving the Rangers game at Carolina on January 22. The good news is that all three could potentially return to the ice at Detroit, but most indications are that Nash will make his return on the Rangers’ California trip next week.
While the Rangers have a very respectable record in Nash’s absence, his return will not only help the Rangers on the offensive front, but on the Penalty Kill as well. Make no mistake about it, Nash is the Rangers’ best two-way forward. His return will also make Alain Vigneault give some thought as to how his top-9 should look like. This brings me to my biggest concern, something which has been talked about at great length since Sunday’s loss to the Islanders. AV has shown that logic isn’t really logic when it comes to his lineup decisions.
Newly acquired Eric Staal has been relegated to third line duties being flanked by Oscar Lindberg and Viktor Stalberg. While they were by far the Rangers’ best line vs. the Islanders, they have done little else in their 5 games together. Staal should be centering Nash when he returns. This should give AV more options for forwards and cause opposing defenses all kinds of trouble. However, the real concern lies in who comes out of the lineup. Assuming Nash returns and every current forward is healthy, that puts the Rangers at 13 forwards. Now, I know that Tanner Glass has been better this season, but he’s the 13th best forward on the Rangers. But, as we’ve seen over the last two seasons, AV has played favorites with Glass and routinely sits players like Kevin Hayes, Oscar Lindberg and J.T. Miller so that Glass stays in his spot.
It’s now March, not October. There’s no more time to play games. The standings are too tight and the stakes are too high to not put your 12 best forwards on the ice on a nightly basis.
Now to the backbone of this Rangers squad – Henrik Lundqvist. While Raanta has done a nice job holding down the fort over the last week, having Lundqvist back is a always good thing. He’ll need some time to get back up to speed, but hopefully that shouldn’t take too long. I assume he’ll play two games on the California trip; maybe one if he gets both starts over the weekend (@DET, vs. PIT)