Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 12/8/11

The reason behind Monday's 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs to break a five-game winning streak at the time was quite simple: the Rangers only showed up for half of the game. Well, I guess that isn't necessarily the proper way to put it. What I should say is that it took the Blueshirts 30 minutes to get going against Toronto, therefore leaving them with a shortage of time to get the game tied in the third period. Any analysis beyond that point is unnecessary, like blaming the coach for example, because you simply don't overdo it when picking apart only the club's third loss in 15 games. 

That one loss was far from the end of the world, partly because the solution is not too difficult of a concept to comprehend, and also because the Rangers, at 15-6-3, are only three points behind the first place Pittsburgh Penguins with four games in hand at the moment. The Penguins also lost on Monday, 3-1 to the Boston Bruins, so no ground was lost, nor was any gained. 

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, continues to struggle as they are coming off a 5-1 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday. The Lightning are a familiar opponent for the Rangers, as the two squared off on Saturday in a game that the Blueshirts took, 4-2. Like Monday, it took New York some time to get rolling in that tilt, but once they did (late in the game) the ice was clearly tilted in their favor. Long story short, the Rangers are due for a 60-minute effort tonight, which would put them in excellent position for their sixteenth victory of the season. 

We'll be seeing a slight change in the Rangers' lineup tonight, as defenseman Michael Sauer is currently unable to play for an unspecified amount of time due to a concussion suffered in Monday's game against Toronto. Sauer was caught with a high hit to the head by Dion Phaneuf, left in the third period and would not return. As of yesterday head coach John Tortorella did not have any details on the severity of the concussion, or at least he didn't reveal any to the media. 

In his place will be Anton Stralman, who was signed by the Rangers last month but only played in one game since then. It looks as if Stralman will be partnered with Jeff Woywitka on the last pairing for tonight's game, and Steve Eminger will move up to play alongside Michael Del Zotto. Many thought that Tortorella would split up Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi with Sauer going down, but to start, he is keeping New York's dynamic first pairing together. 

Defense played a big part in Saturday's win over the Lightning, and the same will have to hold true for tonight if the Rangers want two points out of this game. McDonagh and Girardi did a tremendous job of keeping the Steve Stamkos line to the outside and only allowing shots from the perimeter of the rink. This was not the case against the Kessel line when they played Toronto, but that Kessel line is understandably an entire different beast. 

While defense will be important, where the Rangers will disrupt the Bolts the most is on offense. The Rangers' explosive forwards can easily outmatch the defense of Tampa Bay, and we saw that late in the third period on Saturday when the Blueshirts tied and won the game. Now if the Rangers can get their deadly forecheck going from the start, this won't be such a nail-biter like the past few wins have been. For once, they'll make it easy on us spectators. 

Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal for New York. Also, Marty St. Louis will most likey not be in the lineup for the Bolts tonight after taking a puck to the face during practice this morning.

New York Rangers Lineup

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