NEW YORK NY - DECEMBER 12: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals trades punches during the second period against Brandon Dubinsky #17 of the New York Rangers on December 12 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
According to the "beat tweets", it looks like Sean Avery and Steve Eminger are going to be the scratches for tonight's Game One, which means Mats Zuccarello and Matt Gilroy will be in the lineup, giving the Rangers by my count seven guys playing in their first playoff game tonight.
Here are your probable lines, subject to change by the time the anthem is over:
Vinny Prospal - Artem Anisimov - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Derek Stepan - Ruslan Fedotenko
Wojtek Wolski - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Mats Zuccarello- Erik Christensen - Chris Drury
Marc Staal - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Mike Sauer
Bryan McCabe - Matt Gilroy
Chad Johnson will start in goal.
Just seeing if you are paying attention.
While everyone is talking about Marian Gaborik needing to have a strong playoff series, I'm focused on the secondary scoring. The Capitals are going to pay closer attention to Marian Gaborik, so its guys like Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle and Wojtek Wolski that I think are going to be the key for the Rangers offensively. All three had seasons that could best be described as "streaky", those are a few of the guys that for me are going to help determine the Rangers fate.
Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer are going to see plenty of the Capitals top line these first two games, with the Caps having the benefit of last line change. Call me crazy, but I think they are going to be up to the challenge.
Chris Drury, the Rangers just need you to win those face-offs, and kill the penalties. If they get any goals from you, it's gravy. The Rangers want to play puck possession, that starts with the face-off, and you are still the best on the team.
The regular season has been one of the most fun since I've been following the Rangers. A few stinkers, and we had to sweat it out at the end for sure. But I'm proud of this team, as proud as I've ever been of any team I've ever rooted for. Their guts, heart, and determination are truly a pleasure to watch, and I am not ready to see this season end just yet.
It's going to be all about surviving the first ten minutes tonight. Get past the early adrenaline rush from the Caps, the crowd noise, and that dumb air horn at the Verizon Center. Settle in, play the game, and be smart. If the Rangers can get a win in Game One, I think the Caps will pucker up tighter than a snare drum. I see the Capitals as a team with a very fragile psyche. Rangers can play fast and loose, no one expects anything from this bunch of kids with "balls".
Finally, do you have playoff superstitions? I don't have a set bunch, I let them develop as the games roll along. But I am very superstitious in a "karma" type way. Whatever Ranger shirt I wear tonight will be worn again Friday if they win, or washed and put away for the remainder of the series if they lose. Same goes for whatever hat I wear. I've got enough of both to cover all the games. If they win tonight, whatever I have for dinner I will have again Friday, etc. Like I said, its "karma" for me, and you don't screw with karma.
Rangers in six.....we got this.
One last thing: Glen, if Caps fans are making derogatory remarks about Ranger players, do us a favor, don't write the NHL about it. Thanks!