Rangers going for four in a row tonight at Garden
• Tonight's Game Notes
• Gaborik's Shoulder on the Mend
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Fresh off a successful three-games-in-four-nights stretch late last week, the Rangers embark on another three-in-four beginning with this evening’s contest against the Atlanta Thrashers at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers enter play on a three-game winning streak after defeating the Maple Leafs and Bruins on the road and the Devils at The Garden over a four-night span that began last Thursday. A balanced scoring attack -- seven different players accounted for the eight Rangers goals -- and a stingy team defense that surrendered only four goals have been among the hallmarks of the Blueshirts’ resurgent play over the past three games.
|Centering the Rangers' top line with Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky on his wings, Artem Anisimov has stepped up his game and is the only Blueshirts player to have contributed more than one goal to the current three-game winning streak.
“We’ve played three really good games here, but I don’t think it should be something special and we shouldn’t be sky-high about it,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “Everyone should feel good about it, but it’s a long year and we have to stay with the way we’re playing. I think our biggest strength is that we have played as a team.”
is the only player who has scored more than one goal over the previous three games as the Rangers have displayed an extremely balanced offensive attack. Of the eight goals they have scored, six have come from forwards (including a pair from Anisimov) and two have come from defensemen, who have also added four assists to the offense.
Anisimov’s line has been the most productive as he, Ryan Callahan
, and Brandon Dubinsky
have combined for four goals, five assists, nine points, and a plus-9 rating during the three-game winning streak.
“We go out and do the things, and put in the effort, that as a line can make us successful,” said Dubinsky, who leads the team with four goals and seven points. “We have the skill and the ability, but we’ll only be successful if that is coupled with hard work.”
Dubinsky and Callahan both notched a goal and an assist in Sunday’s hard-fought 3-1 win over the Devils. Both players logged more than 22 minutes of ice time to lead the team’s forwards, something that is becoming the norm on a game-in, game-out basis for the Rangers.
“Cally does everything for us, and now I think he is embracing being a leader for us,” said Tortorella. “And Dubi, you see the situations I put him in. He’s maturing and he’s handled himself very well this year.”
Defensively the Rangers have played three strong games in a row, allowing a grand total of four goals. Goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist
and Martin Biron
both have been sharp between the pipes, although they have received a lot of help from their teammates in front, as well.
Veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival
has been routinely praised by Tortorella this season for his solid all-around consistent play, which includes two goals and six points on the offensive end, as well. Dan Girardi
has been a shot-blocking machine every night, while Michael Del Zotto
has stepped up into a more complete role -- one that saw him grab a team-high 28:38 worth of ice-time on Sunday in a terrific two-way performance.
On top of all that, newly-anointed alternate captain Marc Staal
believes that his game has reached new heights, in part, because of the letter he now wears on his chest.
“It’s a huge honor, and it’s nice to be recognized in that way,” said Staal. “It keeps me mentally more aware and more conscious to be ready to play and to set an example.”
|Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, off to a strong start, said that being named an alternate captain is a huge honor that has made him "mentally more aware and more conscious to be ready to play."
Tortorella said after Tuesday’s practice that his lineup would look the same on Wednesday as it did in the Devils game, except for the fact that veteran Todd White
would be back in against his former team after being a healthy scratch on Sunday. Jeremy Williams
, who made his Blueshirts debut vs. the Devils, was returned to Hartford on Monday.
In contrast to the Rangers, who have won three straight, the Thrashers have lost three games in a row, including a 4-3 overtime decision in Washington on Saturday night. However the Blueshirts are well aware of what the young and hungry Thrashers are capable of.
“They have a lot of skill, but if they want to get in a track meet with us we’ll just do our best to shut them down and get our opportunities when we can,” said Staal.
Second-year forward Evander Kane is off to a fast start with five goals in his first eight games for the Thrashers. Teammate Anthony Stewart has four goals, but none in his last three games. And Andrew Ladd has tallied eight points in eight games.
The Thrashers, however, can be exploited defensively. Atlanta is tied for last in the entire NHL with a bloated 3.62 goals against average.
“You can talk and talk about how you want to play, but it all starts with your work-ethic, and we’ve been working really hard here, and will need to continue to do so,” said Lundqvist.
Following tonight’s game, the Rangers return to action on Friday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at MSG before traveling up to Toronto for a tilt with the Maple Leafs on Saturday.