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With Hagelin Out – What Should Rangers Do Now?

Ranger rookie and first liner Carl Hagelin has been suspended for the next three games.  How should his squad respond?  Put simply?  Don’t. @JoeBianchino

The New York Rangers never back down from a fight.  I know this.  Indeed, I’ve seen such a personality develop into the team’s biggest strength over the length of the season.  It’s what helped them battle back against the Flyers in the Winter Classic; it’s what helped them fight off the Penguins and secure the Eastern Conference’s number one seed.  But that iron will has a tendency to turn into a thirst for blood, with their discipline it’s biggest victim.

Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Such was the scenario in the latter stages of game two – the Rangers’ rock steady defense becoming a hit-someone-at-all-cost unit.  The price for such play was not only game two, but first line forward Carl Hagelin, who has been sat down for the next three games by an NHL league office whose better judgement seems to have left them.  Now, the night before game three, with Hagelin out, with Senator Matt Carkner only having been banned one game for repeatedly sucker-punching Brian Boyle, with Brandon Dubinsky having been ejected from game two for reaching Carkner before the linesmen, and with the Rangers now finding themselves tied at one in this best of seven, that thirst for blood is likely to be as unquenchable as it has been all season.

…Enter John Tortorella.  The fiery coach has to reign in his team, here.  Yes, they should be physical.  Yes, they should impose their will on the Senators.  No they shouldn’t back down from the fight.  And I’ll be disappointed if I don’t see an angry, physical, brutal Ranger team Monday night in Ottawa (who’s excited for Dubinsky’s first shift? This guy!), but the Blue shirts need to remember what has brought them so far this season – the balance between emotion and intelligence.  Feisty.  But never reckless.  Intense.  But with purpose.  The best revenge, after all, is a win.

To collect such a win, the Rangers will need to replace Hagelin on the team’s top line.  Hagelin’s inclusion on that line in the season’s second half saw it’s production sky rocket, his presence will certainly be missed. Likely roster call ups to replace Hagelin are enforcer John Scott and collegiate signee Chris Kreider.  If chosen, Monday would be Kreider’s NHL debut.  As for who will replace Hagelin along side Gaborik and Richards, no one will know for certain until lineups are announced on Monday.  On Sunday it was Ruslan Fedotenko who skated with the pair in practice.

The two time Stanley Cup Champion is a logical choice boasting an impressive showing in game two.  I, however, would look toward Captain Ryan Callahan.  Though separating him from Brandon Dubinsky would be hard – with Dubinsky in the foul mood he’s sure to be in Monday night, just imagine what chaos will reign with those two on the ice together – I think a line of Callahan, Richards and Gaborik would be brilliant.  Callahan lacks Hagelin’s speed, but his tenacity on the forecheck is likely to cause juicy turnovers for Richards and Gaborik.  They’ve played together on the power play.  Callahan plays largely in front of the net, a role neither Richards nor Gaborik relishes and, finally, Callahan is a finisher.  Those three could be dangerous.

The conversation is largely academic, however.  John Tortorella will unapologetically make his decision and we’ll all watch to see what plays out.  No matter what choice is made, however, one thing is for sure.  With the lead in we were given on Saturday night, game three is going to be a spectacle.

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