After the satisfying 4-1 win on Monday, the Rangers went south for the first of two games in the Sunshine State. We just beat the Bolts 5-2 earlier this month on the strength of a Chris Drury hat trick. Can Captain Clutch come through again? Can Nik Zherdev find some consistency and repeat his stellar play for two games in a row for the first time this season? Can the Ranger defense make less mistakes than the Lightning's? Hell if I know. That is why they play the games, but let's hope the answers are yes.
Oh, and the game is on MSG 2 (Cablevision ch. 14 or 414) here in New York and starts at 7:30; the Vancouver game also started at that late time and you remember what happened then ...
Where We Are: Hopefully not having too much fun in the sun of Florida. The Rangers have consistently played down to the level of their opponents and it will be too easy to slack off in Tampa, especially coming off of a strong home win.
Where They Are: They got their hats handed to them by the Devils on Sunday 7-3. The scary thing is that Ollie Kolzig made some utterly incredible saves and yet he still gave up five goals on 28 shots over a period and a half before being pulled. The Tampa defense was absolutely horrid and allowed 45 shots by the Jersey offense. Jersey offense. Did you ever think those two words would be put together in any other way than 'Jersey kills offense' or 'Jersey has no offense' or 'Jersey smells offensively?'
Who To Watch For: Vinny04. No matter how bad the team is around him, Vinny Lecavalier remains one of the top all-around talents in the NHL. Ryan Malone, who was -4 in the Devil debacle, has always been tough on the Rangers. And Steve Stamkos is getting more ice time now that Melrose is gone and - as we saw early in the season - the kid has some serious skills.
What To Watch For: See which defenseman hurts his team more - Marek Malik or Michal Rozsival. But for the bigger picture, watch to see if the Rangers can find the motivation to show up against a terrible team with a joke of a coach. (Sorry Rick, you are almost as bad as Barry. On Sunday it appeared as though he was asking Gary Roberts for coaching advice during the game. Pathetic!)
What We'll (Hopefully) See: Scott Gomez to score a boatload of points to prove how wonderful everyone says he is. Blair Betts to score again and continue his campaign for the Selke Trophy. And most importantly, a motived Ranger team that is playing like they have something to prove.
Also Check Out: Both Lightning Strikes and Bolts Blog do well to keep up with the goings on of the Tampa team and are well written. However, neither mentions that they are giving away Vinny Lecavalier 'third jersey' tee shirts at tomorrow's game ...
As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report for up-to-the-minute updates on our boys.