Injuries create opportunities in game vs. Avalanche
• Tonight's Game Notes
• Prospal Has Successful Surgery
• Injuries Force a Lineup Shuffle
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Last season, when the Rangers defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 out in Denver, Marian Gaborik
accounted for all of the visitors’ offense, recording his first hat trick as a member of the Blueshirts.
Tonight, with Gaborik sidelined due to a separated shoulder, the Rangers will be forced to use a different formula to get another win over the Avalanche when the two clubs meet at Madison Square Garden.
“We’re not going to spend much time talking about it, we’re just going to get up and play,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of the injury to Gaborik. “It’s a matter of guys stepping up and filling in, and trying to find a way to grind out some wins.”
|Rangers forward Erik Christensen, one of the team's top play-making threats, is a welcome returnee to the lineup tonight against Colorado. Christensen has three goals in six career games against the Avs.
Not only do the Rangers have to find their way without Gaborik, who will miss two to four weeks with the shoulder injury, but they must also persevere without team captain Chris Drury
, who is out six weeks after suffering a second fracture in his left index finger, and alternate captain Vinny Prospal
, who is scheduled to undergo knee surgery on Tuesday.
“You never want to see your captain and your top player go down. That’s never going to be easy for a team to come back from,” said rookie center Derek Stepan
. “But the thing about our team is that we are a deep team. It’s never going to be easy losing those guys, but in the same sense, we’ve got guys who can step up.”
The Rangers proved that point on Friday night. After losing both Gaborik and Drury during the second period, the Blueshirts regrouped to score twice in the third period and tie the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-3 before dropping a 4-3 overtime decision.
Despite the frustration of losing the game, and two star players, the Rangers did gain satisfaction from how several others raised their level of play to help the team secure an important point in the standings.
moved up from the fourth line to score a pair of third-period goals; Sean Avery
notched two assists and was a consistent thorn in the Maple Leafs’ side; Derek Boogaard
, Steve Eminger
, and Ruslan Fedotenko
all earned their first points as members of the Rangers; and Brandon Prust
was a forechecking force helping to turn momentum in the Rangers’ favor in the third period.
“With the injuries we have now, I’m not sure which is our first line and which is our fourth,” said Tortorella. “We’re going to try and balance our lines; and Boyle, for one, is going to get more time because he deserves it the way he has played here.”
Tortorella did say that he plans to keep the Artem Anisimov
-Brandon Dubinsky-Ryan Callahan line intact for tonight’s contest “because they’ve been our best and most consistent line. I really like the way they are playing off one another.”
, who missed Friday’s game with a sore groin, but who practiced without incident the last two days, is expected to return to the lineup this evening. And veteran Todd White
will make his Rangers debut after being a healthy scratch the first three games of the season.
|Brian Boyle, who scored two goals in the rally that tied Toronto on Friday night, is one of the Rangers forwards who has already begun to step up and fill the void left by the absence of three injured players.
“I’m sitting in the dressing room (on Friday) watching the game and I see what is happening, and I am thinking that I better hurry up and get better because we’re losing guys like crazy,” said Christensen. “Especially with Gaby and Dru, it’s not like you just go and replace those guys, our captain and our best player. It will take a team effort.”
Tonight the wounded Rangers host an Avalanche squad which is playing the finale of a five-game road trip. To date, the Avs are 2-2-0 on the trip, having won a pair of one-goal outings in Detroit and New Jersey. Their most recent contest was a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Islanders on Saturday night.
Despite playing without Gaborik and Drury, the Rangers will look to play their preferred aggressive style against the Avs, only on a much more consistent level then they did either Friday night against Toronto or last Monday afternoon on Long Island.
“It starts with breakdowns in our end zone, there’ve been too many of them,” Tortorella said of his team, which carries a 1-1-1 record into play tonight. “But we don’t want to change our style of play just because we’re missing some guys.”
Following tonight’s tilt against the Avalanche, the Rangers hit the road for a pair of games later in the week. On Thursday, the Blueshirts will skate in Toronto for a rematch with the Maple Leafs; and then on Saturday the Rangers are in Boston to face the Bruins.