Rangers 60 minutes away from return to win column
|Defenseman Marc Staal, 23, is an alternate captain with Vinny Prospal sidelined due to knee surgery. A former captain during his major junior days in the OHL, he is no stranger to an on-ice leadership role.
|RANGERS ON DEMAND
|Tortorella's Post-Practice Remarks to Reporters
|Lundqvist, Stepan on Facing Toronto Again
|White, Christensen on Boosting the Special Teams
|Prust, Staal on the Keys to Rangers' Success
• Biron Starting in Goal Tonight
• Tonight's Game Notes
• White Could Provide Offensive Spark
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Less than a week ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs handed the Rangers a 4-3 overtime loss at Madison Square Garden. Tonight the Rangers look to return the favor in Toronto’s home building when the two Original Six teams meet up at the Air Canada Centre.
“We’re trying to win a hockey game,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We’re going to play hard and we want to be more consistent. We need a full three-period game.”
Tortorella and his players have lamented the fact that the team did not play a complete game in their home opener against the Maple Leafs last Friday night. Instead, they bookended strong first and third periods around a second period in which Toronto scored three goals, and the Rangers reeled from losing Marian Gaborik
and Chris Drury
The fact that the Rangers rallied to secure a point in the standings when Brian Boyle
scored twice in the third period to help force overtime was a true rallying point, but did not mask sub-par play in the middle 20 minutes.
And if there has been a common denominator during the Rangers’ current three-game slide that has seen them collect only one standings point, it has been that the Blueshirts have not been able to put together a complete 60-minute effort yet.
“It’s something we need to work at, the consistency of it,” said Tortorella. “There have been times where we just lose ourselves for stretches. We have to remain consistent in what we do.”
No one on the Rangers is pointing to the losses of three key veterans to injury -- Gaborik, Drury, and Vinny Prospal
-- as a reason for the club not putting together 60-minute efforts the past two games. But clearly the team will need to rally together for the next several weeks and fill the void created by those three injuries.
“Obviously that’s a couple big holes there, but that just means everyone’s got to be better,” said defenseman Marc Staal
, who has been named an alternate captain in Prospal’s absence. “This isn’t quite a make-or-break time for us, but it’s tough to get off to a rough start early on in this league and then have to battle your way back at the end of the year. But we look at it as we have to be better the next game. If you look too far down the road, you get in trouble.”
By being named as an alternate captain, Staal will now take on more responsibility off the ice, as well as on the ice. And the coaching staff is positive that the fourth-year pro is ready to handle those challenges.
“I think it’s the right thing to do -- to put it (the ‘A’) on Marc Staal
, he’s a big part of our core,” said Tortorella. “We’re asking him to accept more responsibility in a leadership role. Right now he’s going to put that ‘A’ on and hopefully thrive with it.”
While much is expected from Staal, 23, and other younger players on the roster with three key veteran players missing from the lineup, Tortorella also has challenged the players with more NHL experience to step up their game right now, as well.
|Rangers winger Alex Frolov, who scored his first goal in a Blueshirts uniform on Monday night, is on a reconfigured line with play-making center Erik Christensen and grinding right wing Brandon Prust.
Two of the players the head coach named specifically -- Alex Frolov
and Erik Christensen
-- will skate on the same line tonight with Brandon Prust
on their right side.
“I am going to try as hard as I can to produce and score, get some offense,” said Frolov, who scored his first goal of the season in Monday’s 3-1 loss to the Avalanche at The Garden. “The most important thing, though, is to play as a team, and play a solid game. We have to do the right thing, play good defensively, strong in the neutral zone, and then try to create some offense.”
Tortorella also plans on keeping the Brandon Dubinsky
-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan line together this evening, while reuniting Sean Avery
with Derek Stepan
and Ruslan Fedotenko
And the head coach has said in recent days that veteran Todd White
, who will center the fourth line with Derek Boogaard
on the left side and Boyle on the right, will likely see increased ice-time, taking defensive zone faceoffs as well as playing on the power play.
“I think it’s going to be good to get away and be together,” White said of the Rangers’ road swing through Toronto and Boston this week. “We’ve got to start playing a better 60 minutes and not have a bad period here or there. The biggest thing is these bad periods are killing us.”
Tonight’s game starts a stretch of three-games-in-four-nights for the Blueshirts. The club will travel to Boston to skate against the Bruins on Saturday night, and then will return home to host the Devils at MSG on Sunday evening.