'Rangers Inside And Out'
By Sean Hartnett
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The broken, damaged Rangers are in need of a spark. Chris Neil's head-shot on left Brian Boyle concussed and with that, a large part of the Rangers' heart was ripped from their lineup.
Never have the Rangers needed hot-shot rookie Carl Hagelin more than in Game 6, where he'll make his return after serving his 3-game suspension for elbowing Daniel Alfredsson.
The Blueshirts' backs are firmly pressed against the wall. They'll have to escape a raucous Scotiabank Place atmosphere with a victory tonight in order to have a shot at returning home for an all-deciding Game 7 at MSG.
Hagelin could be the elixir that cures the Rangers' offensive struggles. Without his presence on the Rangers' top line, line-mates Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik haven't been able to find the open spaces needed to test superb Senators' net-minder Craig Anderson.
I spoke with Marc Staal about the boost brought by Hagelin's return before the Rangers departed for Ottawa.
"He's a quick guy, gets in on forecheck and makes their 'D' think twice about being aggressive on him and opens some ice up for some guys," Staal explained. "I'm sure he's excited to get back in it and we're excited to get him back."
What Hagelin brings in his return is the kind of natural speed and skating ability that can make the most assured Senators' defensemen skittish to the point that they are unsure how to defend him.
Pinching him too closely allows Hagelin to use his wheels to burst past them, while giving him too much space lets Hagelin use his terrific on-ice vision to find open teammates.
Richards and Gaborik struggled to find true chemistry until Hageln was inserted on their left-wing. As much as they helped Hagelin 'learn the ropes' of NHL life, Hagelin has equally benefited them through his quick learning curve and skillfulness.
Hagelin's been a rare rookie who has quickly adapted to every challenge thrown in front of him. His playoff debut in Game 1 had teammates raving about his ability to handle the pressure that comes with playoff intensity.
Gaborik spoke to Josh Thompson of LoHud.com about the impact of Hagelin's return. "Down the stretch, he was a big part of our club," Gaborik said. "He's coming out of the suspension, so it's going to be good for us."
Hagelin chatted with Andrew Gross of The Record at Sunday's optional skate. "You know it's going to be tough in the playoffs, that's just the way it is. All we're thinking about right now is the next game and getting the win," Hagelin stated.
Game 6 will be Hagelin's toughest test of his young career but judging by his ability, poise and composure, he has what it takes to re-ignite the Rangers' playoff charge.
Can Hagelin spark the Rangers' lackluster offense? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.
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