The Rangers will face the New York Islanders tonight - MSG 7:00pm EST - with two of their top four defensemen on the sidelines, paving the way for Jeff Woywitka to make his Rangers debut. The Blueshirts are looking for their first win of the season as they prepare to head out on a four game western Canadian trip that begins Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks.
The loss of Sauer to a recurring shoulder injury suffered in the preseason, compounds the ongoing absence of Marc Staal on the back line, and exposes what is fast becoming a relatively weak defensive corps. The only moderately positive news is that Sauer will at least join the team on their trip out west, suggesting he'll be back soon - unlike Staal.
In the Islanders, the Rangers are set to face a team coming off a 5-1 rout of last year's Eastern Conference finalists, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Isles were firing on all cylinders with their top line of P.A. Parenteau, Matt Moulson and Jonathan Tavares leading the way, and former Ranger first round pick Al Montoya off to a strong start in net.
The Isles will also have the benefit of playing at home tonight, a place where the Rangers lost 2 of 3 games last season, while facing a team significantly weaker thanks to injuries that cost them over 580 lost man games.
For the Rangers, they will have to be on their game for the whole sixty minutes. The Islanders have proven that they like to lift themselves for these rivalries, showing an ability not only to get off to fast starts, but also to recover and take the game back given an opportunity.
Certainly a repeat of the slow starts in Europe won't be what they're looking for, though one has to wonder whether an overly aggressive travel schedule and irregular practice times was a major contributing fact.
With a week back in New York, and some time for Tortorella to work on building some continuity, the Rangers will have at least had the chance to build a little more cohesiveness.
Woywitka has chosen to wear #6 for tonight's game, officially taking the number from the last owner - Wade Redden, who incidentally will be out the next 4-6 weeks after suffering a broken leg. He'll be the fiftieth Ranger to wear the number six for New York, and appears will likely be paired with rookie Tim Erixon as the third combination, with Steve Eminger moving up to play alongside Michael Del Zotto.
Wojtek Wolski will also miss his second straight game, meaning Erik Christensen will play on the fourth line. Derek Stepan will move up to the top line and play wing, allowing Brian Boyle to shift back to center the third line. Henrik Lundqvist will be in net.