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Import Success and Injury Woes

At what point did things go from bad to worse in Erie? Last place in the league, 11 points behind their next closest basement dweller, what's happened there this seasons? Of course this blog isn't about the Otters so moving on...

The Kitchener Rangers pounded the Erie Otters 7-3 last night. Of course that isn't exactly exceeding expectations for this Ranger team, who now has 33 points on the season. Talk about exceeding expectations, and you have to think of Radek Faksa and Tobias Rieder. The Kitchener Rangers two import picks are leading the team lately. Rieder has 19 goals, and Faksa has 13. It's not unusual for a player to come here from Europe and take a year to adjust to Canada. They usually don't find their stride until their second season. But Faksa has jumped on the ice and fit in perfectly. With his 2 goals last night, he now has 26 points in 23 games, and this should continue as, for some odd reason, he is not expected to join the Czech team at the World Juniors.

Tobias Rieder has been firing on all cylinders so far this season. 19 goals in 24 games, giving him 32 points so far this season. Just to compare that, former Ranger turned NHL first round pick, All star and Calder trophy winner Jeff Skinner took 25 games to reach 19 during his 50 goal season, which was his last in Kitchener. Not to put too much pressure on Rieder (Who just got on twitter @TobiRieder9), but I'm pretty sure everyone on East Ave and a few folks in Edmonton would love to see this trend continue.

And he may have to keep that trend up with the Rangers defensive corps all banged up. Goalie John Gibson is out with a sore back, and when it gets better he'll likely be off to the USA World Junior camp. Carolina draft pick Ryan Murphy is still out with his concussion but is likely to return Thursday vs. Brampton. Rookie blue liner Jared Gilbert has a broken wrist, and add that to Evan McEnemy, who is sitting the whole season after hurting his leg back in October. If a goalie and three defenders down wasn't enough, Andrew Cresenczi also has a sore hand, and sophomore forward Matia Marcantuoni has a shoulder that is so swollen, doctors have yet to even look at it.

Yet with all these injuries the Rangers have yet to skip a beat. They've won 7 of there last 8, are sitting in 4th place overall in the OHL (one point ahead of the 67's with a game in hand), and even received an Honourable Mention in the CHL Top 10 this past week. Once a few of these guys get back from injuries and the World Juniors are over, expect this team to really take off.

One final thought, when was the last time so many Rangers were expected to play at the World Juniors for different teams? The most I remember in the past was in 2002/2003 when Derek Roy, Gregory Campbell and Steve Eminger all played for Team Canada, but this year we have John Gibson (USA), Ryan Murphy (Canada) and Tobias Rieder (Germany), and I believe the Czech's could really use Radek Faksa, although that probably won't happen. It's great to see the Rangers international scouting staff working so well! Just as long as they don't burn the Canadians come that gold medal game.

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