How far will the Rangers get this season?

Panthers Will Provide Surprising Early Season Test For New York

Anton Stralman practiced with the first power play unit on Tuesday and could make his season debut

Anton Stralman practiced with the first power play unit on Tuesday and could make his season debut

When: Wednesday, November 23, 7:30 p.m.

Opponent: @ Florida (11-6-3)



UPDATE: Stralman will make his Rangers debut in place of Jeff Woywitka.  Henrik Lundqvist will be in net.  (4:01 p.m.)

UPDATE: The Rangers will unveil their Winter Classic jerseys on Monday at 4:00 p.m. (3:10 p.m.)

UPDATE: Jose Theodore will start for Florida.  (12:11 p.m.)


EARLIER: Over the next seven days the Rangers will play the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.  But first they must take on the current third seed in the Eastern Conference, the surprising Florida Panthers, in New York's first of three games in four days.

No one expected much from Florida this season because even though the Panthers invested big money in capable veteran free agents, they lost goalie Tomas Vokoun to free agency.

But so far the trio of Scott Clemmensen, Jose Theodore and Jacob Markstrom has done an admirable job in net and the Panthers rank 11th in the league in goals against.

Strong goaltending has been a welcome surprise, but the Panthers trail the first place Penguins by just two points because their offense has been fantastic.

The top trio of Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann has combined for 28 goals and 38 assists and has been literally unstoppable.

That line is the primary reason Florida has been winning, but the Panthers also boast the league’s seventh-ranked power play and have gotten big contributions from defenders Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov and Jason Garrison.

At some point Florida may come tumbling back down to earth, but the Panthers beat Pittsburgh on Saturday and are undeniably one of the league’s top teams at the present time.

That means the Panthers will provide a big test for New York, which has beaten up on the NHL’s cellar dwellers but has yet to prove itself against the league’s powerhouses. 

The Blueshirts racked up victories over the Ducks, Canadiens, Jets, Senators, Hurricanes and Islanders during their seven-game win streak and though the Rangers shouldn’t be punished for picking up 12 valuable points, those games might not have been the best indicator of where the Rangers truly stand.

New York has gotten by with an ineffective power play and inconsistent offense thanks to stellar goaltending and defensive play, but the Rangers probably won’t be able to compete with Florida, Washington, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh without delivering complete efforts.

Of course, New York must be cognizant of Florida’s top trio, but the team will need to start producing more goals as well.

Defenseman Anton Stralman practiced with the first power play unit on Tuesday along with Brad Richards, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Erik Christensen and could make his season debut against the Panthers.

The G.A.S. line and Dubinsky/Richards/Callahan trio will get one more chance to click, but if they struggle Coach John Tortorella will likely start from scratch in search of fresh line combinations.

Florida should provide a good early season barometer – something we could have never guessed before the season.  We’ll see if the Rangers are up to the task.


- Jim Cerny reports that injured players Wojtek Wolski, Mike Rupp and Marc Staal travelled with the team to Florida.  That’s a positive sign, but it could be nothing more than a team-bonding exercise as the team travels during Thanksgiving.  Wolski and Rupp both underwent surgical procedures at the beginning of the month and were expected to miss at least four weeks.  Each could player could soon be ready to skate.  Staal was cleared for light physical activity last week but hasn’t been skating.  He’s obviously on the right track, but his return is still a long way off.

- HBO will air a 12-minute preview of “24/7” on Friday at 9:15 p.m

- Andrew Gross speculates that the Rangers will unveil their Winter Classic jerseys next week.



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Posted by Kevin Baumer | November 23, 2011 at 11:57 am

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New York Rangers VS Chicago Blackhawks
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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Rangers 3 0 0 - 3
Blackhawks 1 1 0 - 2

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