‘Hart Off The Ice’
By Sean Hartnett
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Rangers’ left-winger Brandon Dubinsky knows he’s walking a fine line.  2 goals and 13 assists in 32 games isn’t the kind of production that he or Rangers fans expected after a 54-point campaign last season.

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Much was expected from the Anchorage, Alaska native going into 2011-12.  At 25, Dubinsky is entering his prime years and Blueshirts fans had reason to believe that he would build upon his progress and possibly eclipse the 60-point mark for the first time in his career.

That isn’t going to happen this season as Dubinsky is currently on-pace to finish with 38 points.  By the same token, that doesn’t automatically suggest that Dubinsky will struggle at the same pace for his remaining 2011-12 games.

Dubinsky began to show encouraging signs when he was involved with Brad Richards’ .001 winner in Phoenix.  Although he didn’t register a point on the play, his effort allowed Richards the chance to get the shot on net that resulted in the dramatic game-winning goal.

Head coach John Tortorella was pleased with Dubinsky’s overall contributions that night as he pressured the Coyotes’ net and registered three shots on net.

Tortorella spoke to Larry Brooks of The New York Post after the game.  “That’s what we need from [Dubinsky],” Tortorella said. “To keep pucks alive.”

Positive signs began to pile up for Dubinsky and a rivalry game against the Islanders on Thursday night was the perfect stage for him to score his first goal in over a month.  Dubinsky opened the scoring in the first period by making a wonderful individual effort along the boards.

He stayed strong on the puck and powered past three Islanders’ defensemen, cut toward open ice and beat Evgeni Nabokov.  It was the kind of goal that Rangers fans were used to seeing from Dubinsky and a reminder of what he can offer the Blueshirts once he finds his scoring touch.

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Dubinsky skated back to the bench with a relieved smile but the goal also gave his teammates a lift as the Rangers went on to defeat the Islanders 4-2.

Tortorella mentioned the need for Dubinsky to iron out mistakes and rough areas in his game on the path back to productivity.  “He knows that he hasn’t done the things he needs to do. He’s working at that, and you need to get results sooner or later. Hopefully he’ll continue to see how he has to play to get the right result,” Tortorella explained Thursday night.

Dubinsky spoke to reporters after the 4-2 victory.  “The biggest thing is just my legs because there was a period of time where my legs weren’t moving the way they needed to be, and I think it showed.  It showed in my play, my minutes, and my role on the team. So I have tried to go back and focus on that because that’s how I am most effective,” he stated.

He knows that he still has a lot to prove to Tortorella, his organization and the Rangers fans who’ve stuck by him.  If things had shaken out a little differently, Dubinsky could have been already been traded away.

Most Rangers fans I spoke to earlier this month wanted to see Dubinsky included in a deal to bring Anaheim Ducks’ power forward Bobby Ryan to Madison Square Garden.  Ultimately, the Ducks decided to hold onto their American star.  Anaheim general manager Bob Murray pulled Ryan off the trading block as he wanted to see what kind of affect the team would have under new head coach Bruce Boudreau.

The Ducks have shown little change under Boudreau.  They’re playing just as with a poorly as they did under previous coach Randy Carlyle and are 2-6-2 since Boudreau has taken the helm.  It remains to be seen whether the Ducks decide to shake things up by trading Ryan or another one of their main components.

Right now, Dubinsky needs to continue proving his value to the Rangers and keep his momentum going forward.  32 games isn’t even half a season and he’ll get his chances once he straightens himself out.  It’s up to him to cement his role with the Rangers or risk being dangled in trade talks as the February 27th trade deadline nears.

Dubinsky is holding the key to his Rangers’ future and if he continues his strong play and stays confident, Madison Square Garden will continue to be his home address.

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Rangers fans – can Dubinsky turn his season around?  Will he stay in New York past the NHL trade deadline?  Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.