Written on 12/14/2009 by Jim Cerny
But another theme that has been repeated since the start of training camp is the club waiting on 23 year-old center Brandon Dubinsky.
First the Rangers had to wait on Dubinsky to arrive at training camp. A no-show when he could not come to terms on a new contract with the club, Dubinsky was on the receiving end of some verbal wrath of head coach John Tortorella before his holdout ended during the first week of training camp.
Then after a strong start to the season, both Dubinsky and the team hit a major lull. The Rangers looked to Dubinsky to be one of the club's top offensive players, but instead found themselves waiting on Dubinsky to be more consistent with his play. Dubinsky had eight points in the first eight games of the season, and not shockingly the Rangers posted a 7-1-0 mark in that span as Dubi and his 'mates were clicking on most cylinders.
But then Dubinsky hit the skids, notching just two assists over the next ten games, and the team mirrored his offensive struggles. His ice-time---often in the 22-23 minute range while skating with Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal in the opening weeks of the season---was cut back by Tortorella. In fact, Dubi found himself rooted to the bench, playing just nine minutes up in Montreal on October 24.
Everything came to a halt for the third-year centerman on November 7 in Calgary. On that night Dubinsky went down to block a Jay Bouwmeester slap shot during a Flames power play. The puck hit Dubinksy on the right hand, breaking a bone and sending him to IR.
Dubinsky has missed 13 games since breaking his hand. And with the Rangers struggling mightily to score goals (they have been held to 2 goals or fewer in 15 of their previous 19 matches) and win games, the organization has been waiting for Dubinsky's return to game action to hopefully spark the club.
The latest wait for Dubinsky may finally be over.
Dubinsky, who has skated in full-contact practices this past week, took part in the morning skate earlier today and all indications are that he will return to the lineup this evening at Madison Square Garden against the Atlanta Thrashers.
I spoke with both Dubi and Torts this morning and neither would confirm Dubinsky's return this evening. But my gut says Dubi is in, meaning Erik Christensen would be out of the lineup and Prospal likely will shift back to wing from center.
"My hand feels great, and, obviously, we've given it enough time," stated Dubinsky. "I'm anxious to get back in."
Dubinsky said there is still some pain in the hand, and that he will have to wear a protective cast over it during games. He also noted that only yesterday did he practice taking faceoffs. The hunch here is that if he does return tonight, Dubinsky will defer to a linemate---perhaps Prospal or Christopher Higgins---to take draws for him.
"Yesterday we had a chance to do some battle drills and I was able to lean on some guys, put some pressure on some guys without the hand hurting," explained Dubinsky. "I took some (faceoffs) yesterday. As far as that is concerned, I think we'll just see how it goes."
If Dubinsky does return this evening, Tortorella said that he will play him Top-six forward minutes.
"We'll go full-bore (with Dubinsky)," said the head coach. "Practice is one thing, but then the game comes along. We'll just have to read him. We think he's healthy, but we just have to be careful there."
One look at Dubinsky and you can see he is absolutely ready to jump out of his skin if he doesn't get back in the lineup soon. Though he said he enjoyed eating the shrimp, popcorn, and "maybe even a little candy" during games, it was also "hard to watch" his teammate struggle so.
Dubi said that he is done being a "fan" and a "cheerleader" for the team. He is ready to be a Ranger again.
It loks like the latest wait is going to be over, sooner rather than later, as far as Brandon Dubinsky is concerned.
Now the Rangers have to hope that they do not have to wait on Dubinsky to regain his scoring touch.
That already has been the longest wait so far this season.