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Blueshirts Must Persevere Without Their Soul Man

Posted By Margaret DeJesus On Apr 5 2011 @ 7:58 pm In New York Rangers | No Comments

The up and down trend of the season continued for the Rangers. A thrilling 5-3 comeback victory over the Bruins was followed with some bad news. Really bad news. Their “soul” man and alternate (soon-to-be) captain Ryan Callahan fractured his ankle last night doing what he does best — playing his heart out.

He suffered the injury after blocking a monster slap shot by Boston’s giant defenseman Zdeno Chara. The speculations swirled last night after he gingerly made his way back to the bench and all morning as media and fans awaited official word. The gritty blue collar forward will be sidelined indefinitely.

Callahan is second on the team in goals (23) and points (48) to his partner in crime Brandon Dubinsky. The duo have been the Rangers’ bright spot all season. Losing Callahan could mean a dip in Dubinsky’s numbers. The timing could not be worse. New York is still trying to solidify a playoff berth after missing the post season last year. They need at least three points to clinch (a win in regulation and a trip to OT will do or if the Canes fall apart and lose their remaining games.)

Callahan’s leadership presence will also be missed, especially since captain Chris Drury is still out indefinitely. A true leader by example, Callahan is ranked fifth among all NHL forwards in blocked shots. He threw his body in front of 77 speeding pucks in 60 games played this season. This is the second time he’s paid the price for his take-one-for-the-team play. He broke his hand back in December after blocking a shot by Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins and missed 19 games. He’s also a key penalty killer for the Rangers.

He is irreplaceable yet that just what Coach John Tortorella is tasked with figuring out. Mats Zuccarello’s size and frequent absences make it hard to argue a case for him being called back up from Hartford. There are no shootouts in the playoffs and Zuccarello could use some more tuning up to make a consistent impact. Kris Newbury could bring some grit.

But Torts is rolling the dice a bit and giving Matt Gilroy a shot at right wing. Gilroy has been playing defense since his Boston University days but was originally a forward in his youth. Tortorella mainly goes with three lines anyway, so dressing Gilroy gives him some flexibility. He could use him at the point on the powerplay without having to worry as much about a defensive lapse. While Gilroy has been scratched throughout this season, he is most familiar with the Rangers system and could bring more stability than Whaler rookies Newbury or Chad Kolarik. The hybrid forward/defender experiment could be a genius move or a big bust depending on how Gilroy responds. If he can get his legs moving and use his body more (see Steve Eminger) he could be a good fit to plug in the fourth line.

Drury (out since Feb. 3 following knee surgery) might be nearing a return to the lineup which would a better option for the Blueshirts should they head to the postseason. Drury could improve the Rangers faceoff numbers, kill penalties and bring some veteran leadership to the table. It’s doubtful that he can get his offensive game back in action though. The Rangers will need to rely on Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal and of course Brandon Dubinsky for that.

Potent Quotables:  “Callahan is a top-six guy yet he still plays with so much heart and grit. You don’t see many guys that throw their bodies around to block shots like that. He plays the game so hard. You have to respect a guy like that. I heard after the game that he’d probably broken a bone, so I just hope that he’s okay long term.” — Zdeno Chara

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