Wednesday, December 06, 2006

King Darius Returns

After being held out of the lineup for inexplicable reasons, Darius Kasparaitis will return to man the blueline for the Rangers when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit MSG tomorrow night. Not only will Darius play for the Rangers but Thomas Pock will start on defense after the team was denied by Pock recently in wanting to send him to Hartford for a two-week conditioning assignment.

Karel Rachunek and Sandis Ozolinsh will both sit. I would love to see some shuffling in the pairings. Aaron Ward and Fedor Tyutin don't seem to have the same chemistry that Toots and Kasper had last season so I would reunite those two; Ward and Pock would be a good pair, and would greatly benefit the inexperienced d-man; meanwhile, the pair of Marek Malik and Michal Rozsival should remain intact.

I mentioned candidates for promotion from Hartford recently, well, one of them has been called up and will be in the lineup tomorrow night: Jarkko Immonen. Immonen, 24, has played very well lately for the Wolfpack. According to the New York Rangers' website, in the last five games Immonen has picked up five goals and two assists for seven points.

I love seeing the young guys playing for the Broadway Blues but at this point in time I kind of am wondering if it is the right thing to do. Hartford got off to a very rocky start but has played much better over the last month, so perhaps it is better for the team to stick together and develop some confidence as a team and as individuals.

But the Rangers do seem to need a player like Immonen who is a fantastic penalty killer, can score, and plays sound defensive zone hockey. I hope Immonen sticks and Head Coach Tom Renney finds a suitable place for him. Three or four minutes a night won't cut it.

Here's what I see for the game against Pittsburgh:

Jason Ward-Immonen-Hollweg

Forwards sitting: Colton Orr.

The way I see it the top line is obvious; the second line again has Adam Hall on the left side after he was moved up over the last week or so in place of Petr Prucha, but the third and fourth lines are definitely interchangeable. The above is what I think will be put together, but if I was the Head Coach, I would put Ryan Hollweg at center between J. Ward and Macel Hossa, then I would put Immonen on the right of Blair Betts with Prucha on the left.

Which would look like this:

I think then you would have a pretty good balance on the third and fourth lines of good faceoff men in Betts and Holly, good scoring balance with Prucha and Hossa, and good defensive forwards in Immonen and J. Ward. But we'll see. Just a guess.

It has been reported elsewhere that Immonen will center the second line and thus the top 12 would look like this:


But if you are going to put Prucha on the fourth line you might as well not play him. He's a goal scorer and needs to play a bunch of minutes. Renney was recently raving about Hall so I don't know how he can fall from grace so suddenly. If anything Hall will fill the slot for Hossa as third line left wing. These lines reported elsewhere came from a pretty good source but don't make sense, so stay tuned...

Brett Hull's number 16 was retired last night by the St. Louis Blues in a game against another former team of his, the Detroit Red Wings. Hull had an uncanny ability to get open in the slot and to park himself to the goalies' right where Hullie would blast one-timers like few others. "The Golden Brett" won a Cup with Dallas in 1999 and Detroit in 2002. He was always candid in his interviews and sometimes ticked off some of the folks in the NHL offices. Hull was a great player and is sorely missed both on and off the ice.

So long to another hockey legend, Florida Panthers' center Joe Nieuwendyk has called it a career, and what a career it has been. He won Cups with Calgary (1989), New Jersey (2003) and Dallas (1999); scored 51 goals in the season the Flames won the Cup; won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs in 1999, and won a Gold Medal for Canada in 2002. No question in my mind a first ballot Hall Of famer.

Incidentally, he was traded by Calgary to Dallas for C Corey Millen and the rights to eventual superstar Jarome Iginla on December 19, 1995.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, is there any reason why six-time Stanley Cup Champion Glenn Anderson (498 career goals) and Pavel Bure (437 career goals and a pioneer for Russian players) are not in the Hall. Or is it just because someone has a grudge?

By the way, the Knicks are hosting the Wizards tonight who are winless (0-8) on the road, so I expect New York to drop this one. The Knicks are a game and a half out of first in the very inept Atlantic division, but they are a much more entertaining team and a much more cohesive team than last year. That may not be saying much, but it's improvement, which I'll take.

Stay onsides and don't foul out!

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