The New York Rangers are set to be without their leading offensive contributor in forward Brandon Dubinsky who is expected to miss three-to-four weeks after fracturing his left tibia. Dubinsky has been the Rangers’ top point-getter this season at 38 and leads the team in both goals (17) and assists (21).
His absence will leave head coach John Tortorella short of production especially since left-winger Alexander Frolov will miss the rest of the season due to ACL surgery. Fellow forward Ryan Callahan is still recovering from a broken hand and could make an early February return but until then Tortorella must figure out how to get his team firing.
Tortorella benched star winger Marian Gaborik during the second period of Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia and firmly pointed the finger at his slumping sniper.
“We need production, I’ll leave it at that,” an enraged Tortorella demanded during Sunday’s postgame press conference. “We’ve got guys grinding their butt off. We need some of our skill guys to score a goal for us.”
The Rangers’ bench boss is known to be a master of player psychology and knows when to push the right buttons to get the most out of star players. His public calling out of Gaborik lit a fire under the marksman who answered Tortorella’s challenge by scoring four goals as well as adding an assist against the hapless Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
Still, all eyes will be on Gaborik who carried the Blueshirts last season as this display won’t ease much of his burden. Rangers’ fans have demanded more production from their Slovakian ace all season and want to see him play with more consistency. He’s made a habit of scoring goals in bunches but his goal-drought valleys have been just as frequent as his free-scoring peaks.
As a whole, New York has played inconsistently of late, especially on the offensive end. It is up to Tortorella to keep his team in top gear despite the injuries and hurdles he’s faced. The Rangers narrowly missed out on making the playoffs in 2009-10 and were unfortunately eliminated in a shootout away to Philadelphia in their final game that season.
A prolific Gaborik would go a long way towards the Rangers keeping pace in a tight Eastern Conference. If another near miss of the playoffs is to be avoided, he must sustain his hot form and play the sort of hockey we know he’s capable of or the Blueshirts could suffer a similar fate as a season ago.