In the continuing curiosity that is the NHL scheduling, the Rangers are on a one game road trip to Florida to face the Panthers Friday night. I guess it is a quick one-off because the Prague games against the Lightning took a game in Tampa away. Still, it's kinda strange considering they travelled to Dallas last week ... *shrug*
Where We Are: We actually are coming off of a win! A power play goal really could have won the game in regulation, but any win over the hot Washington Capitals is a good one, so what if it took a fluke goal in the shootout?
Where They Are: Florida is coming off of a dominating 5-0 win over Carolina Thursday night. Catching a team on the second half of back-to-backs is usually a good thing but Florida is just so young and their goaltending is so good that it may not matter. The Panthers took advantage of Canes mistakes and jumped all over them. Since Tomas Vokoun started, it is likely that we will see Craig Anderson but the backup actually has better numbers than the starter so that isn't the boon one would hope for.
Who To Watch For: Luckily they are without Rostislav Olesz, who hasn't played since December. Olesz always seemed to step up his game against the Rangers and he is thankfully out with a pulled groin. Of course Florida still has Stephen Weiss, who also does well against the Blueshirts, and Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester is everything that Wade Redden isn't - strong, dependable and worth every penny of the massive contract he is about to get. Nathan Horton had a huge game against the Canes and is finally turning into the game-breaking power player they spoke of years ago and Cory Stillman is proving he still has some gas in the tank, nearly averaging a point per game (31 in 37).
What To Watch For: See how the Rangers come out of the gates - are they going to be the quick-skating, hard-hitting team that started the Caps game or are they going to fall asleep in the sun and play as badly as they did in Jersey on Monday? Seeing as the Cats don't have a goon for Colt to beat up, we may be in for a long night.
What We'll (Hopefully) See: How about a power play goal? That would be a nice change.
Also Check Out: On Frozen Pond (not the fantastic Caps one, this is a good MSM one by a Miami Herald writer who writes from his heart and loves the game) and Litter Box Cats over at SBN.
Interesting Fact: After watching Mike Green tune us up for two goals, the topic of defensive hat tricks was brought up in the bar Wednesday night. Just two Blueshirt blueliners scored three in a game in the last 30 years, and both were against Philly - Brian Leetch and Reijo Ruotsalainen. Leetchie did it in the '95 playoffs against Ron Hextall (good call Mr. X) and Reijo pulled the trick in a regular season game in March of '82 against Pelle Lindbergh (RIP). Now it is virtually impossible for the current crop of Ranger rearguards to pull it off but if Bobby or Del Zotto progress as everyone hopes, you never know ...