Marian Gaborik is back in action and the Rangers should benefit from facing a tired foe after the Buffalo Sabres' SO win in New Jersey Wednesday. Here are three keys to track on the Garden ice Thursday night.
Real surprise, huh? It's pretty big news when your injury-prone leading goal-scorer returns to the lineup, but even more than Gaborik's performance I'll be curious to see what impact his return has on his linemates (TBD) and how aggressively the Sabres try to play him in his first game back. I'll be particularly interested if he lines up with the struggling Alexander Frolov, who could be a whisker away from getting scratched. Head coach John Tortorella was not pleased with Frolov's effort during Tuesday's loss to the Caps. If Gaborik can't get him jump started I'm not sure what will.
Another aspect of Gaborik's return: The Rangers' top line doesn't have to be the Rangers' top line any more. They likely will avoid the Sabres' top defensive pairing and/or checking line and should benefit from the extra breathing room. The trio should also take advantage of a Sabres' D corps that had a hard time getting the puck out of their zone against the Devils Wednesday. Expect some strong cycles from the AC/D-sky line.
Just Win Baby
Andrew Gross nails this in his blog for the Record today. The Rangers have been atrocious at home this season. They were about .500 last season and just barely missed the playoffs, so yeah, a couple of home wins could go a long way. With G Ryan Miller still out due to injury, the Blueshirts have a good chance to capitalize. Lose again and you've really got to wonder what the heck is going on with the home hardship.