Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rangers vs. Devils, Game 5 Tonight From MSG; Dubinsky and Prust Return To Lineup

As the Rangers and Devils get set to drop the puck for a pivotal Game 5 in about a half hour from now, the Rangers will get two added boosts to their lineup with the returns of Brandon Prust, who was suspended for Game 4, and Brandon Dubinsky, who hasn't played since suffering a right ankle injury in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. John Tortorella, of course, hasn't officially announced that Dubinsky will return tonight, but all indications from practice this morning were that Dubinsky will be in the lineup for John Mitchell. Stu Bickel, who was a healthy scratch in Game 3 and dressed as an extra forward in Game 4 to replace Prust in the lineup, is also expected back in the lineup tonight at defense while Steve Eminger takes a seat.

Here are the projected lines for tonight's game:

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

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto-Stu Bickel

I would expect that John Tortorella will be mixing and matching his lines often and early tonight to try and create some different looks to throw the Devils off guard.

As for the gameplan itself, I really don't think it's any different than it's been for any game in this series. The Rangers have to use the home crowd to their advantage and get pucks to the net. Martin Brodeur, in my opinion, has been average in this series and some of the goals he's let in have been brutal. If the Rangers just get pucks to the net and feed off the energy in Madison Square Garden tonight then they have a chance to really rattle Brodeur early. The absolute worse case scenario would be a repeat of the Rangers' performance in Game 4, where they just looked unprepared and disorganized. They usually tend to follow up those games with much better performances and raise their intensity, though, so we'll see what happens.

Also of note is that Mats Zuccarello also fully-practiced this morning for the first time since fracturing his wrist, but it's not clear if he'll be in the lineup tonight. Truthfully, I don't see Torts putting him in for anybody in the lineup unless an injury occurs or someone has a truly abysmal performance tonight.

One player to watch is Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto, of course, had an awful game on Monday night and was benched for a majority of the second and third periods following a few awful giveaways. Torts said after the game that Del Zotto's grandmother died recently and Game 4 was his first time playing since it happened, so I think it's safe to say his mind was on other things, and rightfully so. But I expect Del Zotto to come out determined and with a renewed fire tonight. The Rangers will certainly need him to be back to himself or else they'll be forced to give more minutes to Stu Bickel and Anton Stralman late in the game, which Torts typically likes to stay away from.

We'll see what happens. Gametime is 8 p.m. so the time for talk and analyzing is just about over.

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