A team loaded with superstar contracts, the Rangers have been struggling to get consistent play out of the big names they pay for. Chris Drury and Scott Gomez both received Captain letters this year, but have not played to the true potential expected by the team and the fans. Two defensive signings—the re-signing of Michal Rozsival and long-term deal with former Ottawa Senator all-star Wade Redden—have only given the Rangers inconsistent defensive play, greatly overshadowed by younger defensive stars such as Marc Staal.
Due to the lackluster play of their superstars, the Rangers need a major boost to help right the ship. After a deal for Mats Sundin diminished, they looked within their own organization to find their pick-me-up: Petr Prucha.
Prucha was outstanding in his rookie year 2005-06 scoring 30 goals for a team that clinched the sixth spot in the playoffs. After an injury-plagued 2007-08 season, Prucha was barely given a chance after starting the year playing in his homeland of the Czech Republic. Since then, he's been only a fill-in for players such as Dan Fritsche and Nigel Dawes during injuries or minor lineup changes, playing 13 of 40 games thus far.
Prucha was given a chance on Dec. 3 at home against the Penguins. In a hard-fought game against the division rival, he proved himself as a stand-out performer.
Hours before the game began, Prucha was greeted outside by fans. When asked if he would be playing that night, Prucha smiled and politely nodded his head 'yes.' The fans around him became ecstatic, and began a Let's Go Prucha chant, one that would follow into the arena later that night.
On the ice, he utilized slick puck control around the net, which forced the Penguins to take multiple penalties for his efforts. In the third period, with the score 2-1 in the Penguins favor, Prucha took advantage of a rebound deflected off the boards to score his first goal of the season, tying the game at two. The Rangers would go on to win the game after a shootout.
Coach Tom Renney would leave him in for the next two games, but the outcomes did not help Prucha's staying power. In those games, Prucha made his best efforts to keep himself around. He even dropped the gloves in Montreal—a rarity in his career—but the Rangers were badly beaten by the Canadiens and the Flames. Prucha was removed from the line-up yet again.
In two games this last week, Prucha was inserted back into the lineup due to inconsistent play from Aaron Voros. Prucha was able to prove himself in key spots yet again, as he scored a tying goal against the Islanders last Monday, and scored the only goal in the Rangers' loss to the Capitals on Saturday.
Prucha doesn't bring the star power to the ice that the Rangers are used to, but he plays an aggressive game built on heart and determination. He's been proving his point to the team all season: he can be an asset to the roster by just keeping his head up high and working hard in practices. It could be increased ice time for Petr Prucha that gets the Rangers right back in the playoff mix.
Randy Sobel is the lead host for Ranger Nation Radio and is also a contributor to www.nyrnation.com.