While he is far from a world-beater at center, Vaclav “Vinny” Prospal might be the best No. 1 or No. 2 center option for the pivot-poor New York Rangers. Unfortunately, the outlook for the former Tampa Bay Lightning forward’s health is looking hazy at best and grim at worst.
Meanwhile, a well-placed source has told The Post that there’s little reason for optimism that the condition of Vinny Prospal’s right knee will improve following his enforced two-week rest period. Indeed, we’re told it would be no surprise at all should the 35-year-old require surgery that would likely end his season, if not his career.
Brooks goes on to describe the Rangers’ limited options at center now that Prospal could miss a serious amount of time with those knee problems. He does not paint a very pretty picture.
This leaves the Rangers with options so unappealing in the middle that one-time pivot Brandon Dubinsky, who has skated almost exclusively on the left during camp, is probably the best choice to open between Marian Gaborik and Alex Frolov as the team’s No. 1 center.
Erik Christensen, capable if not dazzling in that role during the second half of last season, had a miserable camp. Rookie Derek Stepan clicked offensively in the preseason with Gaborik and Frolov but struggled defensively. Beyond that, it’s difficult to imagine Tortorella giving Stepan the minutes he likes to heap on his first unit. It’s even more difficult than that envisioning White being able to keep up with the wingers or handle those minutes.
The NHL is a league dominated by elite centers, yet the Rangers lack many options that are even “very good.” I guess that’s what happens when you pay a second or third line center like Chris Drury more than $7 million per year, though.
Keep in mind that this is just an anonymous source from one reporter, so it’s not set in stone that Prospal will miss a lot of time (let alone face a career ending injury). That being said, if he is gone for a significant amount of time, this could really hamper an already limited Rangers roster.
Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks
If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.
Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).
Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:
1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP
Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:
Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.
Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings
As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.
For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.
They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.
The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.
On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.
It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.
This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.
That’s impressive stuff.
This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:
The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.