Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nash, McDonagh, Del Zotto All Return Tonight; Zuccarello On Radar?

With game-time about fifteen minutes away, the Rangers will get three huge boosts back to their team as they look to snap a five-game losing streak against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the Garden. Rick Nash (undisclosed), Ryan McDonagh (undisclosed) and Michael Del Zotto (hip) will all make their return to the lineup tonight  after all three missed Tuesday night's game against the Winnipeg Jets. Nash has missed the last four games (all Rangers losses), while Del Zotto has missed the last two and McDonagh one.

If anything can get the Rangers out of this terrible slump it surely will be the return of two of their top four defensemen and their (easily) No. 1 scoring threat. The Rangers have looked absolutely abysmal on offense while Nash has been out, and the defense looked equally as bad on Tuesday night without McDonagh and Del Zotto that left the Rangers with, essentially, three defensemen they could count on for the entire game (Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman).

The Rangers, however, will be without Arron Asham (back) and Matt Gilroy (flu) for tonight's game. Steve Eminger, who played over 20 minutes in Tuesday's game, will remain in the lineup while Stu Bickel will move back up to see limited minutes at forward on the fourth line tonight.

Speaking of lines, there's been no word on what line Rick Nash will skate on tonight, but I wouldn't be surprised to see John Tortorella stick him on a line with Brad Richards. Richards has struggled mightily, and the return of Nash might be just what he needs to regain his confidence. Marian Gaborik has also struggled to score recently, and playing on a line with Nash can only help both guys in my opinion.

Meanwhile, it looks like we can finally put an end to those Ryan O'Reilly to the Rangers rumors. According to Darren Dreger of TSN, the Colorado Avalanche restricted free agent center has signed an offer sheet with the Calgary flames worth $10 million over two years. The Avalanche have seven days to match the Flames' offer or else O'Reilly will head to Calgary and the Avalanche will receive the Flames' first and third round draft picks as compensation in this year's draft. I never thought there was any chance the Rangers would trade for O'Reilly anyway, nor did I want them to, so this definitively ends all speculation that he could head to the Rangers.

And finally, it looks like Mats Zuccarello could be a Ranger once again before long. Glen Sather told Larry Brooks of The New York Post yesterday that he "is definitely interested in talking to Zuke" about a reunion with the Rangers once his first season with the Mettalurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL is over. Zuccarello's team is currently in the playoffs playing against Salavat Yulaev and are tied 2-2 in the first round of a best-of-seven series. Game 5 will be played Friday with Game 6 scheduled for Sunday.

Zuccarello signed a two-year deal to play in the KHL last offseason, but his contract contains an opt-out clause after the first year should he return to the NHL. Zuke's only option, should he want to return to the NHL this year, would be the Rangers since they own his rights. The Rangers would likely need to offer him a two-year deal to keep him under contract for the 2013-2014 season, though, otherwise I can't see Zuccarello coming over.


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