5 New York Rangers Who Must Improve This Season

Rob WatersCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2012

5 New York Rangers Who Must Improve This Season

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    The New York Rangers are playing arguably their best hockey since their last Stanley Cup victory in 1994. 

    If the Rangers hope to go all the way again, they are going to need continual success from their top performers—and more production from those who have shown potential in the past.

    In 47 games played, the Rangers are 31-12-4 with 66 points. The Rangers have just 35 games remaining for the regular season (19 home, 16 away).

    Let's take a look at five members of the New York Rangers that must improve this season to cement a deep playoff run. 

Brian Boyle

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    Brian Boyle is skating well this season—let's give him credit for that. He's shown great moments of grinding play along the boards and impressive shot blocks. But from an offensive point production perspective, Boyle is falling short this season.

    Boyle currently has only three goals this season, compared to 21 last year. I'd be surprised if he eclipses the 10 goal mark this season, although he is on pace to surpass his last year tally of 14 assists. He currently has eight assists.

    Boyle has the skill to be an offensive contributor, but it remains to be seen if he will live up to the outstanding performance of last season. 

    So far, it looks like last season was just a fluke. 

Ruslan Fedotenko

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    Ruslan Fedotenko is right on par with his performance of last season, currently with six goals and seven assists in 46 games played. 

    But Fedotenko has been criticized by Rangers head coach John Tortorella for not playing aggressively enough at times as of late, which spells less ice time for the Ukrainian winger.

    Fedotenko has not put up the numbers that he did as a member of the Penguins or Lightning since becoming a Ranger. He can be a potent offensive contributor at the top of his game—but the past two seasons he's just been mediocre. 

Brandon Prust

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    We know Brandon Prust best for his enforcer-status on the ice, leading the Rangers with 92 penalty infraction minutes (PIM) so far this season.

    But Prust can do so much more for the Rangers besides fight. He's a great grinder and you'll never hear him complain of pain. He's doing outstanding with that, no question.

    With only two goals this season, Prust is not lighting up the lamp like he did last season.

    Prust had 13 goals and 16 assists last season. He's on pace to at least match his assist tally this season—he currently has nine. 

Brandon Dubinsky

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    Brandon Dubinsky is a great young player, helping lead the youth movement for the New York Rangers over the past few seasons alongside Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, just to name a few.

    He's an exciting player to watch and just won't quit when fighting for puck possession, second only to Ryan Callahan in my opinion.

    But this season Dubinsky has really struggled to find the back of the net, currently with only five goals in 44 games.

    Last season, Dubinsky had a true breakout year with 24 goals and 30 assists.

    Coming into this season, Dubinsky signed a well-deserved $16.8 million contract with the Rangers. Is the big payday proving to be a psychological handicap for Dubinsky?

    Only he can answer that question, but Dubinsky is going to need to light up the lamp much more frequently in the remainder of this season if the Rangers are truly going to go places.  

Brad Richards

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    Brad Richards was a marquee acquisition over the past summer for the New York Rangers, signing an enormous nine year, $60 million contract. Rangers head coach John Tortorella and general manager Glen Sather fought hard to bring Richards to New York, and so far, the Richards experiment is proving successful.

    He's been a clutch goal scorer for the Rangers so far this season, most notably for his game-winning goal with only 0.01 of a second remaining in regulation for a 3-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in mid-December.

    Richards has 16 goals and 17 assists so far this season, but these are average numbers for a player that has shown that he can repeatedly put up an 80-point season.

    He's a top-notch playmaker, and can be a dangerous goal scorer as well. But I think it's safe to say that Rangers fans are demanding a more consistent style of play from Brad Richards, who is on pace to fall short of his last two seasons with the Dallas Stars

    If Richards finds a way to elevate his game for the remainder of the season, the Rangers are going to be extremely dangerous.