Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 3/9/12
AP

Thankfully for the New York Rangers, they will be right back in action tonight after Thursday's disappointing 4-1 loss to the Senators in Ottawa. The Blueshirts' recent concerns culminated in last night's defeat, as the team struggled in every aspect of their game for about 50 out of the 60 minutes of play. At the moment they still hold the first place spot in the Eastern Conference, but that position is in danger already with the Penguins and Flyers playing very well beneath them in the Atlantic Division, and the gap will only continue to close if these consistent losses extend any further. 

It's come to the point where it is not only the team's play that is preventing them from winning games, but also the team itself. Admittedly, the Rangers have not been the same dominant hockey club since the All-Star break, and now that the season has reached its final quarter, their issues that were once blanketed by success are now revealing themselves. At the same time, it is not time to panic just yet. But pretty soon, with the path the team has gone down, they are no longer going to be looked at as one of the top teams in the East. 

Back-to-back horrific efforts against the Devils and Senators have me worried for what is in store tonight in Chicago. The Blackhawks embarrassed the Rangers in their meeting at MSG earlier in the season, scoring four goals in the opening period to eventually snap a 9-game losing skid. Once again the Rangers only showed up for about half of the game, which is completely unacceptable from my viewpoint. The effort in the first half, as I remember, was pathetic. 

We can only hope there will be a better showing tonight against a Blackhawks team that's won three of their last four games. Chicago received a tremendous boost upon defeating the Rangers back in February, and since then have maintained a steady pace that currently has them in sixth place in the Western Conference with 79 points. Plus, they were spanked, 5-1, in their last game against the St. Louis Blues following a three-game winning streak, so they will be anxious to rebound tonight against a team that already has allowed them to do so this year. 

The Rangers, too, need a response, but they needed one last night as well and came up empty. The trust we once had in this team is beginning to slip as we approach mid-March, which can't be good with the playoffs not too far off in the distance. The players and coaches are not dumb, so they are not ignorant of these facts. However, even still the desperation in their game has not been there as of late and it's been blatantly obvious. This is something they can control and it needs to change as soon as possible. 

Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal for New York tonight after he had the day off on Thurday in Ottawa. Lundqvist has yet to face the Hawks this season since Biron got the start at MSG in February. I think we all recall what occured on that night. 

Brandon Dubinsky remains questionable for this one after sitting out with breathing problems last night. At this point, with the energy that this team has lacked, Dubinsky returning to the lineup will most likely make a noticeable difference. The question is when that will actually happen. 

I have a feeling Dubi won't be playing tonight, and if that is the case, I'd also go ahead and assume the lineup will remain unchanged from Ottawa. 

New York Rangers (Probable) Lineup

Hagelin - Richards - Callahan

Anisimov - Stepan - Gaborik

Fedotenko - Boyle - Prust

Rupp - Mitchell - Scott

 

McDonagh - Girardi

Del Zotto - Stralman

Staal - Bickel

 

Lundqvist

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