It appears that the Rangers are going to do whatever they can to avoid drawing the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have emerged as the clear juggernaut in the Eastern Conference. News had surfaced that the Rangers will be going with their backup goaltender Annti Raanta, and scratching Dan Girardi, Viktor Stalberg, and Mats Zuccarello. Not to mention their best defenseman, Ryan McDonagh, will be sidelined nursing an injury:
The Rangers are very much teeing up the Red Wings for their 25th consecutive playoff appearance with these lineup decisions. Antti Raanta isn't a bad goalie by any means, but he is certainly no Henrik Lundqvist. Pulling a defenseman like Girardi out of the lineup likely helps the New York club, as he is considered one of the biggest boat anchors in the league.
Head coach Jeff Blashill said that he expects Justin Abdelkader to play tomorrow despite sustaining a lower-body injury in a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins. Ken Holland added that it will be "all hands on deck," which loosely translates to every player being available to draw into the lineup. If you want my opinion, I think we'll see the exact same lineup we saw against Boston. The speculation is that the recent call-up of Joakim Andersson would likely swap in for Tomas Jurco for his game-changing ability to kill penalties. *groan*
It doesn't matter what the lineup is. With or without Mantha, with or without Andersson, the team SHOULD win tin this game. As I said, no excuses. With a regulation or overtime win, the Red Wings will clinch 3rd in the Atlantic. If they win in a shootout, they'll end up needing some help from the Senators, Penguins, or Islanders. It shouldn't come to that. The Rangers have set the stage for the Red Wings to extend the longest active playoff streak in North American sports. All the Red Wings need to do is show up to the ball on time.
The Wings cannot afford to anticipate backing into the playoffs. Win the game, clinch your spot. Adjust, and give them hell. If they can't beat a team who is clearly throwing in the towel to draw a better match-up in the first round, then I will angrily cartwheel into hell.