Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 10/16/11

The Rangers showed some significant improvement offensively in last night's 4-2 loss to the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. However, that was only the case when they played even strength hockey, which there wasn't much of since they found themselves in the box eight separate times over the course of three periods. 

The first line showed some real signs of chemistry last night, and whether or not that was a direct result of swapping Brandon Dubinsky and Derek Stepan on the left wing I don't know, but they sure did look comfortable together last night. I think the most impressive aspect of this threesome was their transition into a breakout in the neutral zone. At times, Gaborik, Richards and Stepan would all touch the puck before they even entered the offensive zone. 

More specifically, Richards is beginning to look sharper as compared to his first game as a Ranger in Stockholm last Friday. Not many players can make the perfect pass that he fed Gabby with to spring him for the breakaway in the second period, and that right there is where Richie is going to earn his money. And it's passes such as those that Gaborik was without last season, and obviously you now see the difference it can make in his game. 

The second line of Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan struggled last night, but we all know what they are capable of when on their game. Anisimov, right now, is up there among most improved players on the team from one year to the next. He's learned how to get quick wrist shots off from the slot - you know, the ones that Alex Ovechkin uses to surprise goaltenders through traffic. If Artie can get those on the net more often, he is going to become a dangerous offensive weapon for New York. 

And Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust is another trio that we've seen have success together in the past, and I really liked what I saw from them on Saturday. Their forechecking was spectacular, and it resulted in Brandon Prust's wraparound goal to tie the game at two in the second period against the Isles. They are hard-working and understand their roles very well, and that's what I like most about them. They don't try to over-do things; they player their game no matter the circumstances. 

The fourth line looks a little ugly right now, and that was the only line I wasn't thrilled about when they hit the ice at the Coliseum. With Mats Zuccarello now sent down to the AHL, Kris Newbury will jump in with Erik Christensen and Mike Rupp. That will likely change once Wojtek Wolski (groin) returns, but there is not telling when that will be. 

So to those who are complaining about scoring, please stop because it is far too early to be complaining about that. Where the issue lies right now is on defense as long as Marc Staal and Mike Sauer are out of the lineup. The offense as is will come along and start scoring if they can get more chances at even strength, as will the powerplay, but the defense needs personnel help and they need it soon. 

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