The Blueshirts will continue to rip the hearts out of their fans by making them pay to watch them fail when they face the Atlanta Thrashers on Monday night in Madison Square Garden (7p, MSG). Several of the beat guys have said that Brandon Dubinsky may return early from his injury but, seeing as the team needs a helluva lot more than him to right the ship, another two day's rest should be in order.
Where We Are: Losers of six out of seven, the Rangers are bloated lifeless corpse of a once-proud franchise. Sure there have been good moments here and there but they get more and more difficult to watch with each passing game. If something magical doesn't happen starting in this game, all hope of the playoffs will be gone by New Years. Overly dramatic much? No, not much in today's NHL.
Where They Are: Atlanta broke a three game losing streak by beating the Mexican'ts Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime on Saturday thanks to the remarkably under-rated Ilya Kovalchuk. They are 16-11-3 which is good for second in the Southeast and seventh in the conference. Atlanta is five points above the Rangers and have a game in hand.
Who To Watch For: Kovalchuk is still an all-world player and would be a true superstar anywhere outside of Atlanta - probably a top-five singular offensive talent in the league (Cindy, Ovie, Iggy, Gabby). Kovy has been helped by a pair of former communists: our playoff rental from last season, Borat Nik Antropov and Buffalo cast-off Maxim Afinogenov. The other -ov, Slava Kozlov, is showing his age but is always dangerous. And Rich Peverley came out of nowhere in Nashville last season to put up some good numbers before heading south over the summer. He is averaging nearly a point per game for the Birds.
What To Watch For: Signs of life from the Blueshirts. Marc Staal attempting to contain Kovy. See if Gabby can find any holes in Moose Hedberg or Ondrej Pavelec, who have been nothing short of spectacular for Atlanta. Brashear to fight Eric Boulton again to justify their salaries. Evander Kane had a goal and an assist the last time so see if Torts plans any kind of coverage (don't bet on it).
What We'll (Hopefully) See: Signs of life from the Blueshirts. A Garden that isn't half empty. MDZ to be better than Zach Bogosian. Erik Christensen to get some ice time and do better than old buddy Colby Armstrong. No softies allowed by Hank. With no Pareneau and Dubi questionable, Lisin to step back in and prove worthwhile. Vinny Prospal remembering how to score. Higgins getting one of his 700 shots in. Drury, Redden and Rozy not doing anything to hurt the team too badly. Kotalik getting a chance to shoot the puck, while restraining himself from checking from behind.
Also Check Out: Atlanta keeps their own blog/PR machine called Blueland, the requisite MSM blog and the in-depth, well thought out fan blog Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons? (I hate the SBN name so I won't use it.)