Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Lines At Practice As Richards Tries To Find His Game

The Rangers unveiled new lines at practice today, although there's no guarantee these will be the lines that the Rangers use tomorrow night versus Tampa Bay (and hopefully they aren't). John Tortorella has used lines at practice before and then scrapped them come game time, so what the lines will look like tomorrow will remain to be seen.

Here are the lines from practice anyway:

Artem Anisimov-Derek Stepan-Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin-John Mitchell-Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Ruslan Fedotenko-Brad Richards-Mike Rupp

My personal opinion on these lines is, in a word, "yuck." I've said repeatedly that I think it's past time to reunite Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards on a line together, and Richards is never going to snap out of his funk playing with the likes of Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Rupp. But, again, we don't even know if these lines will ever make into the game tomorrow night.

Speaking of Brad Richards, he touched a little bit today on his recent struggles when he spoke to the media:

“I’m a little lost offensively, obviously. The defensive game is the way they want to play here and I’m adapting to that but I’ve got to free myself up offensively for sure.”
Andrew Gross 

It's obviously not a good sign when your big free agent signing is practicing on the fourth line and admits to being "lost," but at least he's admitting to it and knows his game isn't where it needs to be. I have no doubt Richards will snap out of it soon and I'm certainly not going to rush to put him in the Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Wade Redden bust category anytime soon. Richards is too good of a player and is simply just having trouble adjusting to the Rangers' system. In his defense, the system John Tortorella ran in Tampa Bay when Brad Richards played there was almost the complete opposite of the gameplan Torts is using now.

Also, interesting to note is that John Tortorella said "it was better" in regards to how the power play looked last night, but declined to talk specifically of what he thought was better about it. I've seen plenty of good shifts from the Rangers on the power play this season that haven't led to any goals, though, and that's ultimately what matters the most. It's up to John Tortorella to get the power play going or the Rangers will be in big, big trouble come playoff time.

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