Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 10/6/11


With some finishing touches being made over the past two days, the New York Rangers have now finalized their roster for the 2011-12 season. Well, maybe I shouldn't say that since there are some uncertainties on defense even though we have yet to drop the puck on the season opener. Allow me to rephrase that last statement; the New York Rangers have finalized their roster for the first two games of the 2011-12 season. 

As far as the offense goes, the Rangers have their top 13 and that won't be changing any time soon. If you are hoping that Sean Avery will be recalled at any point during the season then you are fooling yourself because I will guarantee right now that any such move will not be made this season. Erik Christensen has earned been given that spot and for the time being, it is his for the keeping. 

With that the offense for the New York Rangers will look like this on opening night:

Brandon Dubinsky - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik

Ruslan Fedotenko - Artem Anisimov - Ryan Callahan

Wojtek Wolski - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello

Mike Rupp - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust / Erik Christensen

The addition of Brandon Dubinsky was a move that was first made in Monday's loss to EV Zug in Switzerland and has stuck since then. Head coach John Tortorella confirmed yesterday that Dubinsky would be starting the season there and that he felt the first line was better with Brandon skating on the wing with Richards and Gaborik.  

Like I said yesterday, I am not the biggest fan of Dubinsky on the first line for several reasons. The first and foremost is simply that I feel his talent is being wasted there. Think about it; why stick a talented young core player on a line with two superstars that can put pucks in the net on their own? And based on how Richards and Gaborik played together in the preseason, they are dynamic enough where they do not need a left winger to help them out.

However, I think Wojtek Wolski, who was originally the left wing on that line during camp, was a perfect fit. Wolski is a player that needs linemates in order to consistently succeed while Dubinsky is not. 

Secondly, Dubi significantly improves the second line with Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan. Don't get me wrong, Anisimov and Callahan could hold their own out there, but Dubinsky perfectly completes the threesome. Plus, the chemistry that Dubi and Callahan have developed with each other over the past year or so is unmatched. They are more effective when together than when apart. 

Now you have Ruslan Fedotenko on the second line with Artie and Cally, which is also a mistake in my opinion because Derek Stepan and Ruslan Fedotenko are another duo that plays very well together. They worked well with each other in the preseason and showed signs of doing so in 2010-11 as well. Sometimes I truly wonder if Tortorella takes these things into consideration. 

I can already tell that Wolski will not work with Stepan and Zuccarello, too. That's a trio we saw Torts try to throw together last year and Wolski was pretty much nonexistent during his time there. Stepan and Zuke have something together, yes, but Wolski just doesn't fit there. 

Tortorella did grant one of my wishes, however, by lining up Mike Rupp with Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust on the fourth line. Back on July 1 when New York first signed Rupp, the first thought that came to my mind was this line. They will be the hardest fourth line to play against in the National Hockey League. Mark my words. 

And now we move on to the defense, where a lot is up in the air at the moment. As reported yesterday, Marc Staal (post-concussion symptoms) has been placed on injured reserve and will not be joining the team in Stockholm, Sweden for tomorrow's season opener. In fact, GM Glen Sather went as far as to say that Staal could be out for an entire month. 

With Staal out of the lineup, and with Tim Erixon being recalled yesterday, the Rangers' defense currently looks like this:

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Michael Del Zotto - Michael Sauer

Tim Erixon - Steve Eminger

Stu Bickel - Brendan Bell

Obviously that last pairing there will not be a part of tomorrow's lineup. Tortorella has previously hinted that he does not have trust in Bickel and Bell to start them on opening night, which is presumably why Erixon was recalled on Wednesday. Both Bickel and Bell were placed on and cleared waivers, but have remained with the team for the time being. 

Ryan McDonagh will be filling in for Marc Staal on the top pairing with Dan Girardi. No one compares to Marc Staal, so McDonagh is not going to be the shutdown force that Marc is, but he's a damn good substitute. You can expect nothing less than perfection from these two because they are as steady as they come on the blue-line. I think the coaching staff made the right decision to split some pairings up to have McDonagh on the top duo because he's the best option to fill the vacancy.

I think playing with Michael Sauer may do some good for Mike Del Zotto, as well. Del Zotto likes to take risks and join he offense, so having someone responsible to back him up in Sauer is a clever idea. Sauer is never caught and is his best when staying at home. Opposites attract and I think that will be the case with this second pairing. 

Finally, we have Steve Eminger and Timmy Erixon. Eminger's preseason was immaculate and the only reason I know that is because I didn't notice him much at all. Besides taking stupid penalties, which seems to be a habit he cannot shake, Emmy's shown that he is a bit more responsible than in the past. And with Erixon, we know that he has a lot of potential. He will be a permanent on this roster by the end of the year, I am confident, but I think he definitely needs some time in the AHL first. But for now, a taste of NHL regular season action won't hurt him. 

There’s also been a rumor floating around that the Rangers will be adding a veteran defenseman to the mix in the near future. Paul Mara is the name that's stood out to this point, so what you see above may not be what we see throughout the majority of the season. 

Last but not least, we look at what I feel could be one of the best goaltending tandems in the league in Henrik Lundqvist and Marty Biron. If things go as planned, I think we can expect a 50-30 split between Hank and Marty in 2011-12. Lundqvist was not hesitant when pointing out that the extra rest last year made a big difference in his game. 

So, if the Rangers are not fighting for dear life from January to April, he may get even more rest than he did a year ago and be even fresher going into the playoffs. We know that Lundqvist is a top goaltender in the world so it is difficult not to play him, but at the same time Marty Biron has proved that he could come up with solid performances for this team when called upon. I think these two goaltenders compliment each other very well.

Can you believe it? We are just a day away from the 2011-12 season getting underway for the New York Rangers. It's been a very long offseason considering the Blueshirts were done in early April, but we've finally made it. New York's chase for the Stanley Cup begins tomorrow. 

 

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