Get ready to stay up late boys and girls as the Rangers open their western Canada kick in Vancouver tonight at 10pm eastern.
Where We Are: Coming off a good grind-it-out 1-0 win over the Boston Bruins. Sure they were without their best players, but it was a big win for the Blueshirts, seeing as their previous two lack-of-efforts were so horrific.
Where They Are: Without the injured Roberto Luongo and Daniel Sedin (in addition to a half dozen other players). But still somehow capable of putting up a 3-0 win over the red-hot Colorado Avalanche. Granted, that came two days after a 7-2 shellacking by the Ducks, but still impressive.
Who To Watch For: Well, Toronto's favourite five hole Andrew Raycroft put up that donut on the Aves - shocking the world - so maybe he has figured out what it takes to stop a puck. I doubt it, but it's possible. Henrik Sedin is leading the team in points but hasn't been the same with half his brain sitting up in the press box. Former Ranger Mikael Samuelsson has shown he has some goals let in the tank, which is surprising considering that Detroit rarely gets rid of talent before its expiration date. Ryan Kesler, or Ryan Callahan West, has shown that persistence pays off with a good season so far.
What To Watch For: Rangers discipline; even without half of the Sedin Twins, the Vancouver power play is quite capable - especially with Christian Ehrhoff and a healthy Matty Schneider back on the blue line. And with that, intelligence; Kesler and Alex Burrows playing hard, physical, pestering hockey and the Blueshirts have to find a way to shut them down without losing tempers. Rangers getting the puck on the net; if Raycroft does start, perhaps a lot of rubber will remind him that he is a sieve (he only had to stop 18 in that Aves game). It will take a big effort to do that, what with Kevin Bieksa, Willie Mitchell and Alex Edler in front of Razor, but the Rangers have to try - and the same goes if the Canucks start the inexperienced and overhyped Cory Schneider.
What We'll (Hopefully) See: Some Ranger goals scored by someone other than Marian Gaborik. No one get their ass kicked by little Rick Rypien. The Rangers not to catch the injury bug from the Canucks. Cally and Dru to get a nice feel for the ice where they will lead the U.S. team to glory in February. Donald Brashear to remember that he liked it in Vancouver and stay there after the game, never to return to Broadway (hey, I can dream).
Also Check Out: Waiting for Stanley went and joined SBN, selling out to become Nucks Misconduct, Heated Skates is normally good but hasn't been updated in a week and Tom Benjamin and Orland Kurtenblog are two of the best in the business - must reads for hockey fans.