As Joe points out, a drop in offensive output is one of the big reasons why the New York Rangers are slipping from a comfortable stroll toward an Eastern Conference lower seed to a tough fight with bubble teams for one of the last two spots. They’re still in their familiar seventh position, but with 72 points in 67 games played, they’re only one point ahead of the eighth place Carolina Hurricanes and two ahead of the hard-charging Buffalo Sabres. When you consider the fact that Carolina holds a game in hand and Buffalo has three more games remaining, the Rangers don’t exactly have a lot of time to find their punch.
Luckily, the team “found” its greatest sniper again, as Jesse Spector reports that Marian Gaborik (along with defenseman Ryan McDonagh) will play in today’s NBC Game of the Week against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Gaborik has been out of action since February 20th. The injury prone player’s most recent ailment has been a concussion. Although he was actually in coach John Tortorella’s doghouse at times this season, Gaborik scored nine points in nine games from January 24th to February 17th. He might not have the substantial grit of a Ryan Callahan or the all-around skills of Brandon Dubinsky, but no Rangers forward shares his ceiling offensively. The Rangers need a healthy, focused Gaborik to retain their playoff spot, so it must be thrilling for fans to hear that he’s “all in.”
McDonagh might not have the kind of splashy impact Gaborik does (the defenseman has zero goals and five assists in 25 games played this season), but he’s been getting substantial ice time as of late. He received between 23 and 24:55 time on ice in four of five games before getting banged up on March 3rd. It’s clear that Tortorella’s trust of the 12th overall pick of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft is increasing as the playoffs approach, a flattering sign of trust for a 21-year-old blueliner.
In other words, if both players can approach their full-strength abilities, they’ll be huge additions to the lineup. It’ll be interesting to see if the desperate Rangers can beat the struggling Flyers this afternoon at 12:30pm ET.