It is impossible to replace Ryan Callahan in the lineup. He brings more to the table than his stat line, which says a lot considering his stat line makes him a top-two scorer on the team in goals and points. The hits, blocked shots, power play points, and short handed minutes are what makes Callahan one of, if not the most important Ranger skaters. His loss is going to hurt this team in the playoffs, but it also provides an opportunity for two veterans to step up and lead this team during it’s potential run.
The first player that needs to step up is Marian Gaborik. The Rangers most skilled player, Gaborik has underwhelmed this season, with a line of 22-25-47 in 60 games this year. He was almost a ghost in the beginning of the year, but has really turned up his game lately. He has started to take control of the play, and create opportunities for his teammates. Unfortunately, this isn’t leading to goals for the sniper, as his last goal was on March 20th, seven games ago. Gaborik needs to start putting pucks in the net, especially on the power play. Callahan had ten power play goals this season, Gaborik has seven. It’s not that big of a difference, but one extra goal with the man advantage in the final two games can be the difference between the playoffs and playing eighteen.
As for Chris Drury, he will need to show that he is not washed up when he returns. According to reports, he looks good, and should be back relatively soon following knee surgery. Drury is going to be needed to fill in the defensive void left by Callahan. Blocked shots, short handed minutes, and hits are going to have to be Drury’s calling card for the rest of the year if the Rangers plan on making a run. We all know Drury can win face offs, but with Cally out, it’s time the captain started earning more ice time.
The Callahan injury is nothing short of devastating. The Rangers lost one of their top scorers and top penalty killers with one Zdeno Chara slap shot. Callahan really stepped up this season in the absence of veteran production from Gaborik and Drury, who were expected to produce more offensively and defensively, respectively. Now with Cally out, it’s time for these two veterans to assume the role of veteran leaders, and take over the production that Cally was producing all year. The good thing for them, is that they don’t need to do it all, they just need to compensate for one aspect of Cally’s game.