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Twice a year I get to watch the Rangers play. Usually it involves the Rangers playing their backup goalie, and putting on a horrible display of hockey and seemed to always involve laziness.

Tonight, I finally got to see a gem. No, the Rangers didn’t play a great game, neither did Atlanta for that matter, but what the Rangers did do, was to gut one out. To play their asses off, to work really damn hard, and to find a way to win a game I honestly thought they would lose coming into it. Oh, and they did so while losing a heart and soul player in Brandon Prust, and their 2nd best defenseman in Dan Girardi.

Folks, that speaks volumes to the job coach Tortorella has done with this team. Seriously, ask yourself how many teams can suffer the kind of injuries we suffered, including having 3 of our top 4 scorers from last year being out with major injuries, and still remain very competitive. It also speaks to the job that Jim Schoenfeld has done with Hartford (I refuse to call them Connecticut) and the job that Gordie Clark has done with bringing in quality young kids via the draft. It is only because of these 3 men that we are where we are today. Without any or all of them this is a lottery team thanks to the injuries we’ve had.

Few quick notes. First, I thought Sean Avery had a brilliant game. I know he didn’t show up on the scoresheet, but from the stands it sure seemed obvious he was having a huge impact on the game as the Thrasher players seemed very focused on him instead of the actual play going on. Second, Brian Boyle is having himself a heck of a season. I know that is pretty obvious, but it’s worth mentioning again. His huge year has really helped to offset Gaboriks regression this year. Third, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen is a keeper. I was very skeptical of this kid before he came here, but I LOVE his game. He is always engaged, and plays an extremely smart game. I have a feeling he’s going to be a point a game type player for us in the future as he continues to adapt to this style of play. Finally, I’m ecstatic the Rangers have decided to call up Grachev and MDZ. These 2 guys deserve to be up on this team, and really, we may see a team nearly completely home grown this time next year.

How does this sound?

Dubinsky – Stepan – Gaborik
Grachev – Anisimov – Callahan
Wolski – Boyle – Zuccarello-Aasen
Kreider – Avery – Prust

Staal – Girardi
McDonagh – MDZ
Sauer – Eminger/Valentenko/Kundratek

On paper, that looks like one heck of an exciting team. Maybe not the most skilled, but certainly a good combination of talent and work ethic. I can’t wait.

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