by Patrick Hoffman on 12/20/11 at 12:41 PM ET
That is exactly what tonight’s game between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils is shaping up to be.
Both clubs are playing well, in the top eight in the Eastern Conference and are only separated by three points. Sounds like old-time Patrick Division hockey, eh?
The Blueshirts are coming off a dramatic win over the Phoenix Coyotes. In the game, Marian Gaborik picked-up two goals and nine-year man Brad Richards scored the game winning goal at the buzzer to help his team pick-up the all important two points.
On the other side, the Devils are coming off a 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens. The Devils are on a four-game winning streak and looking to make it five against ther rivals from across the Hudson River.
Andrew Gross of The Record and the popular Ranger Rants blog believes that one player to watch tonight is Rangers’ forward Brandon Dubinsky. Obviously, his offensive numbers are way down and he is struggling to find the back of the net.
On the other hand, Gross believes that things might be changing for Dubi.
One thing to watch for tonight is Brandon Dubinsky. Yes, he’s struggled on the scoresheet with just one goal and 12 assists this season. But, as I mentioned in the Live Blog Saturday at Phoenix, he’s definitely playing better as of late. Dubinsky talked after that 3-2 win over the Coyotes about how he feels his legs are moving better lately and that’s a key for him. Honestly, I don’t think it’s just a struggling athlete grasping at straws. His work on Brad Richards’ game-winner was a great shift. On the ice for far too long, Dubinsky, nearly bent over, dead tired, still managed to hold onto the puck long enough to keep the puck in the Coyotes’ zone, where it eventually got to Richards for his blind, backhanded flip that somehow deflected off luckless Keith Yandle.
Hopefully, Dubinsky can get back to being the play both the team and its fans knows he can be because if he does, this Rangers’ offense will be even tougher to play against. Even head coach John Tortorella pointed that out with Gross:
“When he gets to where he needs to be, he’s going to be a big influence with us staying consistent with that. He’s looking ahead and I think that’s a sign of maturity for Dubi, too. I used to kick him when he got too high, but he’d also get down too low, too. He’s got to take this as an opportunity to mature in this area, to just keep himself there and keep on trying to work on his game and I think he’s doing that.”
It should be a great game tonight between the two rivals, hopefully one where the Rangers come out on top.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at email@example.com.