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Jim Cerny's Rink Rap


January 3, 2011 1:56 PM

Monday Musings: Rangers Identity Risk, Tampa Upgrades, and Canada Seeks Revenge

Callahan2.jpgHere are some Monday morning quick hits from a reporter fresh off a New Years road trip to the Sunshine State:

Rangers Need a Helping Hand
I almost couldn't believe my eyes yesterday afternoon when I saw Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko grimacing in obvious extreme pain and holding his right arm/hand close to his body after blocking Bryan McCabe's slap shot.

Another injury for the Rangers. And even more head-shaking: another hand injury for the Rangers.

A team of hard-working and diligent foot-soldiers has been plagued by injuries all year---the team has lost 123 man-games to injury through 40 games this season---and, more specifically, hand injuries suffered while blocking shots have KO'd team captain Chris Drury for 31 games and currently have sidelined alternate captain Ryan Callahan for seven (and he is still 3-5 weeks away from returning to action).

And now Fedotenko, who has been a perfect fit alongside Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust on the Rangers most consistent, balanced, and persistant line all season long, takes a blast off the hand---though x-rays did not show a break.

The Blueshirts have proven to be a legit playoff contender, but their gritty identity has been skewed since losing Callahan in mid-December---and would further be taxed if Fedotenko misses some time. Despite the fact that their record has remained good since Callahan went down, they Rangers have not shown that pit-bull tendency to attack the opposition like when Cally was in the lineup showing the way with his over-the-top boundless energy and passion.

"Ryan Callahan embodies what a Ranger should be," said the club's coach John Tortorella.

And he is right. But now the healthy Rangers---and there are fewer of them by the day as there were four players sidelined by injury for yesterday's game, and that was BEFORE Fedotenko was hurt---need to step up and play as they did when Callahan was in the lineup. Dispassionate performances, like those of the last two games in which they produced one goal in more than 120 minutes of hockey down in the Sunshine State, will send this team on a freefall out of the Top 8 in the East.

The Rangers need to reclaim their identity and not let the evil hand of injury wash away the good they have created, so far, this season.

Tampa Bay Acquires Dwayne Roloson
Ironic that on a night Tampa Bay watched rookie Cedrick Desjardins play brilliantly in earning a 2-1 overtime victory over the Rangers---two nights after winning his debut 4-1 against Montreal---that the Lightning go out and acquire 41 year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson from the Islanders. But no matter the timing, it was a solid move by team GM Steve Yzerman.

Desjardins was heading back to the minors anyway, leaving the Lightning with the middle-of-the-road tandem of Dan Ellis and Mike Smith---who returns shortly from a knee injury---to backstop the top team in the Southeast Division.

While Roloson is no superstar, nor even the best goalie who may come on to the market before the trade deadline---think Tomas Vokoun, for example---he was having another strong year for a struggling Islanders team, and will definitely be an up-grade over Ellis and Smith.

Should Roloson help make the Lightning defense even a bit better---and my bet is that he will surely do that---then this is a steal for Yzerman, who for a low cost (he traded away a minor league defenseman and added the affordable contract of Roloson) gave his team-on-the-rise a better chance to win its division and, perhaps, make some noise in the post-season.

USA-Canada Meet Tonight at WJC
Canada won the international hockey event that mattered the most last year---the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver---but that doesn't mean the hockey-mad country isn't hell bent on revenge tonight vs. the United States. For it was also last year that Team USA secured a gold medal of its own by winning the 2010 World Junior Championships, besting Canada in an epic overtime finale.

Tonight Team Canada seeks its revenge, squaring off in a semi-final match-up with the United States at the '11 WJC. You just know they would love to hear "Oh Canada" played up in Buffalo on US soil following this evening's clash.

Like last year, these are two very talented teams, with the US squad perhaps holding a slight advantage in that department this time around. Goalie Jack Campbell looms to be the difference maker should the United States win.

But this is must-watch TV tonight. Catch it on the NHL Network here in the States beginning at 7:30.

Follow Me On Twitter: @jimcerny

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