The month of December has not been kind to the New York Rangers. Already without Marc Staal, the Rangers lost two –and possibly three– more defensemen to injury during this literally painful month. Mike Sauer went down with a concussion after a thunderous Dion Phaneuf hit on December 5. Then just this past weekend, the Rangers lost Steve Eminger to a separated shoulder, and may have lost Jeff Woywitka for a short period of time with a bruised ankle. When Eminger and Woywitka are considered significant injuries, then something is wrong on Broadway.
With those three (four including Woywitka) out, the Rangers are turning to rookies Tim Erixon and Stu Bickel to play decent minutes to at least keep the Rangers in the game. Along with Anton Stralman and Michael Del Zotto, that makes four defensemen who were –for all intents and purposes– not on the club last year. So much for consistency.
In the past three games, the Rangers have mustered just four goals, a trend that cannot continue. When one part of the team falters, another must step up to pick up the slack. The Rangers, as currently constructed due to injuries, cannot win defensive battles. They simply do not have the appropriate tools to shut down multiple lines of offense.
The Rangers are going to have to outscore their opponents in the short term. That means players like Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, and Ryan Callahan will need to continue to shoulder the load. It also means that Brandon Dubinsky must start playing like the player he was last year. If the team needs someone, it’s him.
Dubinsky is a good all around player, but is only considered to be good when he is scoring. His assist numbers are still there (he has 12), but Dubinsky has just one goal, which is unacceptable for someone making $4.25 million a year. If Dubi wants to turn the season around, this is his opportunity. The Rangers leaned on him last year when there multiple injuries to forwards, and he needs to show that they can lean on him again.
This is Dubinsky’s chance to step on the gas and show why the Rangers gave him that contract this summer, as the offense will need to bear the responsibility of carrying this team while the Rangers dress the CT Whale defense.