McIlrath Likely Out vs. Pens; Lundqvist Gets 7th Straight Start

Reports coming from Rangers practice seem to indicate that Dylan McIlrath will likely be a healthy scratch tomorrow night when the Rangers face the Penguins at MSG.

Steve Zipay at Newsday noted that McIlrath skated on the fourth defensive pair with Taylor Pyatt (the other probable scratch) leading most to believe he'll be in the press box.

AV indicated that he'll likely go back to dressing just six defensemen instead of the seven he used against Calgary Sunday night.

…i completely get AV's thinking here. The Penguins are a fast team, who would expose McIlrath's below average skating ability. But the Rangers finally showed some toughness against the Flames and now the Rangers head coach wants to omit the team's most physical player? One of these days he's going to learn that he's now coaching in the Eastern Conference where playing with an edge can defeat skill.

…to me, the only way to stop a guy as talented as Crosby is to bully him. I remember a few years ago, Mike Haley and the Islanders dismantled the Penguins by pummeling them from one end of the ice to the other. The Rangers don't have the talent to hang with the Penguins, so really the only way I can see them competing is to go all Charlestown Chiefs on Sid and the Pens, which will be that much harder if McIlrath is out of the lineup.

Meanwhile, Vigneault also announced that Henrik Lundqvist will get his seventh straight start.

…despite Lundqvist's struggles, no way can you throw Talbot into the lion's den against the Penguins.

Here were today's lines (via Bergen Record)…

Kreider-Stepan-Nash
Richards-Brassard-Zuccarello
Hagelin-Moore-Dorsett
Pyatt/Pouliot-Boyle-Asham

McDonagh-Stralman
Del Zotto-Girardi
Moore-McIlrath/Falk

Here's Vigneault's thoughts on his lineup…

“What I’m trying right now, is to find, whether it be duos or lines that have some chemistry,” Vigneault said. “In my opinion, we have one that seems to have a little bit of chemistry, that’s Kreids and Step (Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan). That being said though, Step went without for quite some time before getting a goal (10 games, snapped against the Flames). We’re looking for possible combinations and if I could keep them together, I would. I feel when players play together and you don’t mix and match there’s more of a sense of responsibility and more of a sense of trust that comes between teammates and if I could find lines that could perform consistently or offensively and defensively I would do that.

“The last game, I’ve got Benoit Pouliot, Dominic Moore and Derek Dorsett playing together and I’ve got 11 forwards and I’m mixing and matching and, all of a sudden, in the second and third period, Hags (Carl Hagelin) starts to play. He starts to handle the puck, he starts to move the puck protect the puck, use his speed and he goes up with Pouliot and Moore and they have that real good shift where they backcheck. They backcheck, they create offense and they score a goal. I try to keep them together for the most part after that, you saw a little spark, a little chemistry and if I can find that in some different guys, I would stay with it.”

…with the Callahan injury and the organization seemingly committed to keeping Miller/Kristo with the Wolfpack (at least for now), AV doesn't have much to work with so he's got his hands full trying to find lines that work.

…hopefully Poopsalot's recent resurgence helps add offensive depth to a lineup starving for some.

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Kevin

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