The New York Rangers will close out the 2011 preseason when they take on EV Zug in Zug, Switzerland this afternoon. The Blueshirts have posted a 4-1-1 record so far and have won each game since coming over to Europe; today they will have the opportunity to sweep their overseas preseason road trip.
More important is the fact that this will be the final game for the Rangers before Friday's season opener against the L.A. Kings in Stockholm, Sweden. For head coach John Tortorella, this will be the final opportunity to decide on his opening night lineup, which means one last round of cuts will be coming sometime in the next four days.
Offensively the Rangers already have their four lines planned out and set, but it is the extra thirteenth forward that the coach wishes to carry that has yet to be decided upon. The battle, as stated by Torts, is between Sean Avery and Erik Christensen. Being that Christensen was in yesterday's lineup against HC Slovan and Avery was not, I would assume Sean will be getting his last opportunity to leave a lasting impression against Zug this afternoon.
Like I've been saying, Avery has been the more effective of the two so far through the preseason. However, one of our readers made a good point yesterday in saying that cap-wise, Christensen is an easier option to go with since he takes up less room and is more likely to be claimed should he be put on waivers. So from a managerial standpoint, Christensen makes more sense, but if they want to go with the player who will contribute more, I think Avery is their man.
The Rangers also have a surplus of two on defense (counting Marc Staal), but with Staal out of the lineup then they only are left with one extra on the blue-line. For now the club will role with the defense they have and the only way they make a cut is if Marc Staal somehow is able to join the team in Europe and play on Friday. If that were to be the case, my cut would be Stu Bickel but that's just me.
Mike Sauer is expected to play in his first preseason game this afternoon but that depends on how he feels when skating this morning. There are no guarantees, but he did say that he expected to play in one of the final two preseason matches and he did not play in yesterday's so that leaves today. I think having Mike back in the lineup will be a huge help to a defense that has been very inconsistent throughout the preseason.
It will be interesting to see if the Rangers start this game with fatigue as they did yesterday having traveled to three different countries in two days. They flew over to Switzerland yesterday so they did have plenty of time between then and this afternoon's game to recuperate, but still, at some point the jet lag has to catch up to them. Thankfully they have three full days to rest up in Stockholm before Friday's opener - they're going to need it.
New York Rangers Lineup (confirmed, unconfirmed)