Rangers bring road-warrior mindset home tonight
• Game Notes
• Biron Gets Start in Goal Tonight
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Having won five of their fist seven road games so far this season, the Rangers now look to improve upon their record at Madison Square Garden this week as the team embarks on a four-game homestand.
The first of those four games takes place this evening at MSG, where the Blueshirts play host to the red-hot St. Louis Blues. Contests with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, and Edmonton Oilers a week from today round out the longest homestand of the season for the Rangers.
“There’s no question that one of our goals this season was to play better on home ice,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “As we are in most areas of our game, that’s still a work in progress at this point. But I like the way we are sticking together and working hard at it.”
|Rangers scoring leader Brandon Dubinsky enters tonight's game tied for the NHL goals lead with 10 goals on the season. The 24-year-old winger is also already halfway to his career high, set last season.
The Rangers currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division with 15 points. Ten of those points have been accumulated in their seven road games, while only five have been produced over six home matches.
After posting an 18-17-6 record at The Garden a year ago, the Rangers are 2-3-1 to start the 2010-11 season on home ice.
An encouraging note, however, is that the team’s most recent home game turned out to be one of the Rangers most complete and solid efforts of the season to date.
In that contest last Monday at MSG, the Rangers knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 and did so with an impassioned effort from the entire roster. It was as good a game as the Blueshirts have played all season.
“It’s important that we be good at home,” said winger Brandon Dubinsky
, who is tied for the NHL lead with 10 goals. “We have great fans here and we need to reward them. The key is we have to prepare the same whether it’s a home game or a road game. If we play that simple dirty road game here at home, I don’t think the fans will care if it’s pretty or not as long as we are fighting to win. That’s our goal moving forward.”
The Blueshirts return home fresh off a 3-0 shutout win over the Devils at the Prudential Center on Friday night. Dubinsky continued his scorching hot play of late -- five goals in his past three games -- by notching a pair, including his second shorthanded goal of the young season.
“He’s doing everything for us, playing in all situations, and coming through, not only on the scoreboard, but doing all the little things, too,” Tortorella said of Dubinsky. “It’s been right from the beginning of the year he’s stayed within himself and grinded. The success he’s getting he deserves.”
Only 13 games into the season, Dubinsky is halfway to matching his career-high in goals scored -- the 20 he recorded last season. He also currently leads the team in scoring with 14 points, while averaging more than 21 minutes of ice-time per game, the most among the team’s forwards.
The player right behind Dubinsky on the team’s scoring list, alternate captain Ryan Callahan
, missed Friday’s win in New Jersey after getting banged up the previous night in Philadelphia. However after Friday’s contest Tortorella said that he believed Callahan will be back in the lineup this evening.
Callahan’s return will certainly be welcomed by the Blueshirts, not just because of his strong offensive production -- four goals and 13 points so far -- but, like Dubinsky, because of his infectious energy and work-ethic game after game.
“It’s the same story for Ryan Callahan
, the same story for every game I’ve coached him, so he doesn’t ever surprise me because his effort is so consistent,” said Tortorella. “And he is really becoming a leader, not only with his play but also with his voice. That’s a great thing for a young man in our organization who is really growing.”
|Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan, who sat out Friday night's win over the Devils with soreness, is expected back tonight for the game vs. St. Louis.
With the team being led by the strong play of its young core members like Dubinsky, Callahan, Marc Staal
, Dan Girardi
, Artem Anisimov
, and Michael Del Zotto
, Tortorella is intent on developing more of the organization’s younger talent in order to solidify the club’s foundation even more.
, 26, fits into that category, earning more playing time and responding with a career-best five goals already this season. And Brandon Prust
, 26, has emerged as an emotional leader on the ice, with Tortorella saying of him that he “is definitely working his way into our core.”
And talented 20 year-old Evgeny Grachev
has played in five straight games since his recall from the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford because Tortorella is determined to grow one of the organization’s top prospects at the NHL level.
“I’m trying to get the best out of every shift that I get,” said Grachev, who is still looking for his first National Hockey League point. “I’m totally cool with playing on the fourth line and playing the minutes I am now because I know I have to take it step by step. I’m enjoying every moment here, every game, every shift I get.”
Tortorella has been impressed with Grachev’s ability to use his size to control the puck in the offensive zone, as well as his willingness to make plays in the defensive zone, too. In Friday’s game Grachev played a season-high 10:13 and gained valuable experience playing up on a line with Prust and Erik Christensen
for several shifts.
Tonight the learning curve continues, not only for Grachev, but for all of his teammates as the Rangers kick off an important stretch of playing five of their next six games on home ice.
“We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
. “We can only look to our next game and give the proper effort in that one and hopefully come out with a win.”