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Bluelines: Rangers & Devils Still Skating, While Isles & Sabres Can Only Look Back

• Overlooked in most evaluations of the Rangers is the clever manner with which Glen Sather stockpiled his assets. Going up against Ottawa, the Blueshirts will have a bigger team, with two players in particular to watch. Mike Rupp (9th overall, NYI 1998) and Brian Boyle (26th overall, LA 2003) provide muscle and enough skill to have made them deemed worthy of a first round selection by other organizations.

As fan James Ryan points out, “They have taken their blue chip talent and applied it to the blue collar ethos of the team. They bang bodies but with the hands to make tape to tape passes when the time calls."

• The Devils-Panthers series which begins Friday in Sunrise offers some intriguing story lines. For starters, there’s former Devils backup goalie Scott Clemmensen facing the man for whom he was an understudy, Martin Brodeur. For the first time in his career, Clemmer has emerged from backup status. What’s more, he’s played so well in the homestretch that coach Kevin Dineen may very well start him in Game One.

Then there’s the case of two-time Devils Cup-winner John Madden facing several of his old buddies from the 2000 and 2003 championship teams. “I still know a lot of the guys and take vacations over the Summer with some of them,” says Madden. “For now, it’s business as usual. This is playoff hockey, but you look back to see how you played the Devils, see how you match up. I’m sure they feel they match up well against us. It’s going to be a fantastic series.” Mad Dog was rescued from NHL oblivion by Cats g.m. Dale Tallon mid-season and hasn’t lost his penalty killing talent.

• The Islanders have one of the choice candidates for the Lady Byng Trophy for combining excellence with clean play. Matt Moulson finished the 2011-2012 campaign with a career high 36 goals and a paltry six minutes in penalties. That’s a remarkable combo that should arrest the attention of voters. Garth Snow deserves credit for nabbing Moulson, who had played 29 NHL games for Los Angeles before the Isles g.m. signed him as a free agent in 2009.

“I appreciate the fact that I was given a chance with the Islanders,” says Moulson. “It was also my good luck to play alongside my pal John Tavares.” Tavares, who finished the season with 31 goals and 50 assists for 81 points is as proud of Moulson as Snow. “When people ask me about my success,” says Tavares, “I have to tell them that Matt has been a huge part of my career.  Three straight 30-goal seasons isn’t easy to do. You have to pay a price and he’s willing to do that. We’re lucky to have him.”

• The Sabres made a gallant homestretch run for a playoff berth and the fallout has been all about “what might have been.” Specifically what might have been had the Bruins Milan Lucic not bulldozed Ryan Miller on November 12 in Boston. At the time of the collision, Buffalo had a 10-5 record. After their star goaltender went down with a concussion, the Sabres went into a two-month tailspin, winning only nine of their next 33 games. “Losing Ryan hurt us tremendously,” concludes defenseman Jordan Leopold. The majority of the Sabres would second that motion.

• Glendale (Arizona) mayor Elaine Scruggs may have inadvertently sealed the deal on the Coyotes after-season exit from the NHL.Scruggs blasted Bettman, Inc. during a budget meeting last week over the $25 million that the league is due from the city and that it signaled more than ever that no owner has been found to buy the team. There’s good reason to believe that Scruggs figures time has run out for an NHL team in Arizona.

“Is there any reason they feel sorry for little Glendale?” said the mayor. “Maybe not but maybe there is because they want to take the team someplace else.”All signs suggest that the NHL is remaining mum over Arizona’s future in The Show so as not to interfere with the Coyotes playoff ticket sales.

Meanwhile, you can bet that Plan B involving a move to Quebec City – or to a lesser extent Seattle – is well on the way to being completed. Quebec is far ahead in terms of having an arena (Colisee) ready. Seattle’s potential usable rink is far less hockey-friendly. Plus, Quebec has the sugar-daddy and the target date for new rink completion in a couple of years.


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