Monday, May 21, 2012
Rangers vs. Devils, Game 4 Tonight From Newark
As the Rangers look to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Devils in Game 4 tonight from Newark, they'll be without Brandon Prust (one-game suspension) and Brandon Dubinsky (right ankle). Prust was suspended one game by the NHL yesterday for elbowing Anton Volchenkov in the back of the head in Game 3 that went unpenalized, while Dubinsky has been sidelined with a right ankle injury since Game 7 of the Quarterfinals against the Senators. Dubinsky practiced with the team today, but evidently isn't ready to give it a go yet.
That means swingman Stu Bickel will make his return to the lineup tonight after being a healthy scratch in Game 3 for Steve Eminger. Bickel will dress as a forward on the fourth line, where he appeared a few times earlier in the regular season when the Rangers were banged up. I thought Bickel handled himself pretty well in the limited time we saw him as a forward, but the truth is that he probably won't be playing more than three or four minutes anyway.
John Tortorella, of course, hasn't confirmed that Bickel will dress as a forward tonight, but here's what you can likely expect the lines to look like:
Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov-Brian Boyle-Ruslan Fedotenko
Mike Rupp-John Mitchell-Stu Bickel
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto-Steve Eminger
Obviously, expect those lines and d-pairings to change numerously later on in the game based on where exactly the Rangers find themselves in the scoreboard come the third period.
In regards to Prust, just to give you an idea of how screwed up the NHL disciplinary system is, here are my quick thoughts on Prust's suspension: I don't think he should've been suspended at all, but I'm actually surprised he wasn't suspended more than one game. By now we all know there doesn't seem to be any consistency with suspensions Brendan Shanahan hands out, so I'm not quite sure how the elbow Prust threw was, according to the NHL, just as lethal as when Matt Carkner dropped his gloves and punched Brian Boyle square in the face several times or if it was any worse than Alex Ovechkin leaving his feet and clearly aiming for Dan Girardi's head in the Semifinals. But, as I said, there's really no rhyme or reason for the way suspensions are handed out, so we just have to continue living with this ridiculous system.
The game starts at 8 p.m. It would certainly be great for the Rangers to go up by more than one game for the first time this postseason, but it's gotten to a point now where I really have no idea what to expect from the team. For whatever reason they just play differently when their backs aren't up against the wall. I just hope that isn't the same case tonight. Taking a 3-1 series lead back to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday would be huge, and I really believe it's imperative the Rangers show some killer instinct in these playoffs to put teams away and not let them hang around.