The New York Rangers have just announced that a special ceremony will take place tonight prior to the start of the Rangers-Tampa Bay Lightning game. The scheduled events will begin promptly at 7pm, so ticket holders should arrive early.
The team will celebrate one of its former players. Expect to see some old, familiar faces take the ice to honor a Ranger great. Eddie Giacomin, Rod Gilbert, Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, and Mark Messier will all be on hand for a special night.
It only took a mere three seasons for this player to have his name mentioned in the same breath as those stated above. So tonight, in his first return to the Garden since donning a Blueshirt sweater, prior to the game against Tampa, the New York Rangers are proud to raise the No. 8 to the rafters to honor Marek Malik.
Now playing for Tampa, wearing number 22, Malik spent the first three years after the lockout guarding the blueline. His first-pass, checking ability and speed made him a quick fan favorite in the big apple.
Okay. Maybe not.
But Malik will indeed play tonight for the Lightning after a tumultuous final two seasons in New York. I expect the boo birds to come out tonight in full force to let old No. 8 know how much they miss seeing him in blue.
Malik has only played a few games with the Lightning, as he was unsigned at the start of the regular season. I wouldn't give all the credit to Malik, but this Lightning team is one of the best defensive teams in the entire NHL.
Since losing back to back 2-1 games to the Rangers in the Czech Republic to open the season, Tampa has had points in all but one game. For those not following, Tampa is now 4-3-3.
In fact, Marek Malik is not the only new blue liner since we last saw this team. Lukas Krajicek was brought in from Vancouver for Shane O'Brien, and Paul Ranger returned from injury, and now leads the team in ice time if my memory serves me correctly.
Mike Smith and Olie Kolzig have played well in net, and Smith ranks in the top five in both save percentage and goals against.
The Rangers on the other hand have lost two in a row after giving up two shorthanded goals against the Islanders in a 2-1 loss. After the game, Michal Rozsival took full blame after making two boneheaded plays with the man advantage, currently ranked thirtieth in the league.
I would expect the lines to remain the same tonight, and Henrik Lundqvist will surely get the start in net. I'm not sure if we might see a Rozsival for Girardi swap on the first and second power play units.
I know I said the game against the Islanders was important, but tonights game is a must win. Not in the grand scheme of an entire season, but just to keep the confidence level of this group from plummeting.
So tonight, don't expect a video tribute for Marek Malik, but rather a nice chorus of boo's. Don't be too surprised if Malik's old D-partner Michal Rozsival gets his own verse of the song as well.
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