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20mar07_antropov

Dear Glen Sather: This dude is a beast. Love, 5-hole.com

It’s that time of the season again.  Yes, the annual trading frenzy as fading teams try to get something worthwhile for their unrestricted free agents.  The NHL trade deadline is March 4.  Take a look at this list of the top 50 UFA’s from the 8 worst teams in the league.  I like the Maple Leafs’ big power winger Nik Antropov.  And, with a cap hit of just over $2 million, I hope the Rangers like him too.

Let’s take a look at the games tonight.  We have some good matchups (i.e. Rangers-Ducks, Wings-Coyotes) and some complete mismatches.  Speaking of mismatches… in my opinion, the standard play for the *Gimmie* is to bet on the biggest mismatch, which would presumably be the safest bet.  Tonight, we have the Canadiens taking on the Thrashers (#5 vs #29) and the Capitals playing the Senators (#4 vs #28).  While we all agree on the picks (Habs and Caps), none of us picked either team as our gimmie.  Does that mean we smell upsets?  Or do we all just hate the Habs and we’re just too afraid to pick the inconsistent Caps on the road?  In other news, Eric picked the Hurricanes as his gimmie against the Penguins.  He must know something I don’t.

On to the picks!

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In a game that could have locked up 5th place as a lowest possible finish, the Rangers came out and went 0 for 8 on the Power Play and also gave up a shorthanded goal while on a 5-on-3 advantage. Seriously.

The Rangers still managed to force a shootout, but quickly fell behind 2-0. The Rangers managed to fight back to even the shootout at 2 goals apiece. (After Sjostrom punched in the 2nd shootout goal, MSG was in a frenzy). But, the Islanders scored a 3rd shootout goal in their 4th attempt and that was that.

I’d run through the playoff scenarios, but Steve Zipay aleady did a pretty good job, so I’m just going to copy and paste what he said here:

Some of the Rangers permutations.
A regulation win against the Devs gives them fourth and home-ice advantage.
A regulation loss could put them in sixth against either Carolina or Washington. A point or an overtime win or a Boston loss to Buffalo gives them fifth and a visit to Newark. A Bruins win and a Rangers loss in regulation would give Boston fifth place because the Bruins own the tie-breaker.

There you have it. I’ll be watching the Final Four tonight but keeping a close eye on the Bruins/Sabres game. If Buffalo wins, the Rangers can’t finish lower than 5th place.

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Maybe the defense was asleep. Maybe the refs forgot the rules of hockey. Maybe Christian Backman got 10 penalty minutes (6 officially but it was him that made Cole’s face bleed, not Marc Staal. See second “maybe.”).

But does that really matter? Henrik played pretty well and Malik of all people had a sound game. He threw at least TWO HITS! And, oh yeah, we won!
The young’uns again showed us why they are still playing in the big leagues. Dubinsky completely fooled Ward with a beautiful deke to his backhand that he buried top shelf (Props to Jagr for the steal and the blind drop pass to set the whole thing up). Callahan stood up for himself by fighting Conboy. Dawes looked like he knew where everyone was on the ice at all times. Especially when he set up Shanny for the go-ahead-by-two goal.

***

Fredrik Sjostrom and Christian Backman played their first games as Rangers last night. Sjostrom played on the fourth line with Betts and Hollweg and played very well. He even made a nice drive to the net that needed a fair bit of effort on the part of Cam Ward.

Backman played alright except that he took quite a few penalties. He was the cause of 10 penalty minutes even though he was only charged with 6.

Now this doesn’t mean that I’m throwing him under the bus. I’m just waiting to see him play a few more games. For all we know, he was a nervous wreck last night. Hell, I would’ve been.

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After a three day break, the Rangers get back to work tonight in Carolina. The Hurricanes are playing pretty well going 7-2-1 in their last 10 and 3-1-1 in their last 5.

Two of the four newest Rangers will be in the lineup tonight. Fredrik Sjostrom will take Colton Orr’s (chest pain) place on the 4th line and Christian Backman will skate in Paul Mara’s (head) place next to Marc Staal.

The last two times the Rangers have had a long break, the first team they played after was the Sabres. The Rangers won both games (5-1 and 4-3). Before that, their last long break came during the All-Star break. They played the Hurricanes and lost 3-1. The Rangers are 6-2-2 in their last 10 and 4-0-1 in their last 5 with that “one” being the game against Montreal.

The lineup should look something like this:

Avery-Dubinsky-Jagr

Dawes-Gomez-Shanahan

Straka-Drury-Callahan

Hollweg-Betts-Sjostrom

Rozsival-Malik

Tyutin-Girardi

Staal-Backman

Lundqvist

Petr Prucha is “good to go” but coach Tom Renney says, “we want to give our new guys a chance to play.”

Maybe Sunday against Philly?

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Remember that time we won the Gold Medal?Lundqvist, Backman, Sjostrom, oh my!

Or as Jagr joked, “Swedes everywhere.” As the Rangers get ready for their first game without Malik Jagr Mara Prucha Hossa, we find out that two of the recent acquisitions may very well be playing tomorrow in Carolina. According to Sam Weinman at Rangers Report, Christian Backman skated with Marc Staal (replacing the injured Mara) and Fredrik Sjostrom was skating in place of Colton Orr on the fourth line.

Don’t worry Jagr, Czechs still outnumber Swedes five to three.

Beat Writers boycott Avery?

Recently, Sean Avery has been avoiding the press. Not just avoiding, but making an art of it. At one point he claimed to have laryngitis. Magical laryngitis that disappeared when he hit the ice but reappeared when reporters got near him.

Today during practice, he skated over to the corner of the rink where the writers were stationed. He pointed to John Dellapina of the Daily News, asking him if he wanted to talk saying, “We’ll do a rotation. One guy a week.” Dellapina declined so Avery turned to Weinman saying, “OK, what do you want to ask me? Is there really anything earth-shattering you need to know?” Weinman also declined.

Tired of waiting his turn, Steve Zipay from Newsday asked, “Is there a reason you haven’t talked for three weeks?”

“No comment.”

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