Rangers' focus on selves vs. NHL-leading Canucks
|RANGERS ON DEMAND
|Tortorella Post-Practice Remarks on Wednesday
• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
There are many coaches in the National Hockey League who believe that certain games against specific upper-echelon opponents can be used to see how their own teams measure up in comparison.
Rangers head coach John Tortorella does not share that belief. However, there is no avoiding the fact that this evening’s game at Madison Square Garden against the league-leading Vancouver Canucks will be a stiff test for the Rangers.
“I don’t like the term ‘measuring stick’ because I think we are a good team, too,” Tortorella said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think when you start talking about measuring sticks it becomes big brother against little brother. We’re going to play them head-on and see where we land just like we do with all other teams.”
|Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy has displayed so much confidence of late that head coach John Tortorella plans to give him extended minutes playing the point on the Blueshirts' power play.
The Canucks lead the entire NHL with 28 victories and 62 points, and they have earned at least one point in 17 consecutive games, posting 14 wins and three overtime defeats since their last regulation loss back on Dec. 5.
The Rangers have done quite well for themselves this season, too. Despite Tuesday’s 2-1 home-ice loss to the Canadiens, they still sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 53 points and are 8-3-2 in their last 13 games overall.
“Obviously they are one of the better teams in the league,” Tortorella said of the Canucks. “We will prepare our guys for what to expect from them, but it comes down to us, because it’s our game we’re more concerned about.”
Although the Rangers have been able to sustain consistent success so far this season, Tortorella is eager to see his club pick up its offensive pace, which has sagged a bit recently. The Rangers have scored just nine goals in their last six games, being held to two or fewer five times.
“We’re creating good scoring chances, but we are not finishing them,” said Brandon Dubinsky
, who leads the team with 17 goals and 37 points this season. “We have to find a way to bury our chances when we get them.”
Better results from the power play would greatly boost the Rangers’ offense. The Rangers have scored only one power-play goal in their last seven games, covering 22 man-up opportunities.
Tortorella said on Wednesday that he plans on rearranging some of the personnel on the Blueshirts’ two power-play units. Rookie Derek Stepan
, who has been playing the point of late on the power play, will be shifted back to his natural forward position this evening and defenseman Matt Gilroy
likely will get a chance to play opposite Marc Staal
at the point.
“We may give Gilly a whack at it because his confidence is growing and he should get a chance at it,” said Tortorella. “(The power play) is not a strong part of our game. We’re trying to develop something. But our power play has struggled, and last game we were playing well with an early lead and actually lost momentum because of our power play. That can’t happen.”
Gilroy picked up an even-strength assist on Dubinsky’s goal Tuesday night -- making a slick pass off the boards to an in-full-flight Dubinsky -- and now has five points (three goals, two assists) in his last eight games.
“I think if we go get the pucks and let our skill take over, we’ll be fine,” said Gilroy. “We put out five guys on the ice that are pretty skilled guys. I think if we all believe in each other and outwork the other team, good things are going to happen.”
Tortorella also said that he wants newcomer Wojtek Wolski
-- who looked impressive offensively in his Blueshirts’ debut on Tuesday -- to continue to play with Marian Gaborik
, both at even strength and on the power play. The Rangers coach was intrigued by the burgeoning chemistry the two talented wingers displayed in the game versus the Canadiens.
Wolski logged nearly 20 minutes of ice time on Wednesday and was involved in several prime scoring chances with Gaborik, although both players were held without a point in the loss.
“I think we did a good job of making their D back off and we created a lot of offense, had the puck a lot down low,” Wolski said of playing with Gaborik. “Not only did we have the puck, but we took it to the net and got opportunities. We definitely had a lot of chances.”
Which center gets the chance to play with Gaborik and Wolski is sa decision that Tortorella still needs to make. Artem Anisimov
skated between the two during Tuesday’s game and Stepan did the same during practice on Wednesday. Tortorella said he feels comfortable with either of the youngsters playing on the same line with the two skilled wingers.
“I’d like to keep Gaby and (Wolski) together in as many situations as possible and see if they can create off of one another,” said the head coach. “Who their center will be, we just don’t know yet.”
Following tonight’s tough match with the Canucks, the Rangers head to Montreal for a rematch with the Canadiens on Saturday night. Then it’s right back to MSG for the Blueshirts, as they will host the Flyers on Sunday night.