After playing back-to-back games over the weekend, the Rangers had two days to rest, relax and recoup before they face off against the Blackhawks in Chicago on Wednesday at 8:30 on MSG. I love these Original Six matchups, the NHL should have more of them and promote them better. The tradition and the history set these games so far apart from those against the post '67 franchises and make them special; it is a shame that this is the only meeting of the year. Or maybe not as they are significantly better than we are.
Where We Are Now: Four losses in the last five games. And none of them were good losses either. But the "good" news is that Donald Brashear and Wade Redden may be back!
Where They Are Now: Oh, Chicago is in first place in the Central and have won two of their last three games. They are coming off of a great win over the Pens where the better Hossa brother got himself a goal against his former team. The Hawks are 11-3-1 at the United Center, which actually is full of fans nowadays. And all it took was the death of the owner. Wow. Us Ranger fans, we can certainly sympathize (and dream).
Who To Watch For: A better question might be who not to watch out for as their roster is so loaded with talent that can score. Silly faced captain Jon Toews, Pat Kane, Hossa, Pat Sharp, Kris Versteeg ... Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Troy Brouwer ... ugh, it just makes me ill. Oh yeah, and their blueline boasts Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Cam Barker. Their defensive free agent bust Brian Campbell has 16 points. That's a bust to them. Can you imagine that? Imagine if they had Redden. Or Rozsival. Their Sean Avery, Adam Burish, is out with injury but the Hawks still have former Flyer cementhead Ben Eager.
What To Watch For: Former Devil John Madden to shut down Marian Gaborik. Toews and 20 Cent to make life difficult for the Ranger defense. 20 Cent is just like Crosby, slipping around the defense and popping up everywhere you don't want him to. If Huet starts the Rangers have a shot; Niemi might try to avenge his homeland's Olympic loss to Hank's side or something like that and the Finn has been red hot. The Hawk killers to pounce on any gaffes by the lackadaisical, incompetent Ranger power play.
What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Rangers not sucking, playing another good road game like they did in Buffalo. The Rangers skating, keeping up with the young Chicago legs. The defense to keep the kids away from the scoring lanes where they can get the puck past Hank's glove. Some sign of life. Anything to help justify our continuing fandom.
Also Check Out: Sadly, the Ghost of Ed Litzenberger appears to have vanished but there are still some great Hawks hideouts in Second City Hockey, Third Man In, the Fifth Feather and The 300 Level, a fan forum.