Blueshirts eager to keep power play rolling tonight
• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
After playing just two games over the past nine days, the Rangers get busy again this weekend with three games in four days, beginning with tonight’s contest against the Los Angeles Kings at Madison Square Garden.
The extra time off has allowed the coaching staff to conduct rare, yet very important, detailed mid-season practices. This past Tuesday, for example, Rangers head coach John Tortorella and his staff held a pair of on-ice practices -- a normal 45-minute workout and a second practice which focused solely on the power play.
“This week and last week have been great because we’ve been able to work on a number of things,” said Tortorella. “In addition, we have been able to give the guys some rest, too, and that’s so important at this time of the year. So the combination of rest and extra practice time has been good for us.”
|Forward Marian Gaborik, who scored one of his most impressive and memorable goals against the Kings last season at MSG, says the Blueshirts will have to be at their very best tonight vs. a good L.A. team
One area of their game that the Rangers have worked on extensively in recent days is the power play, and it seems the extra power-play practice is paying off. After tweaking the set-up and personnel on the power play, the Rangers have scored four man-advantage goals in nine opportunities over the past two games.
The revived power-play unit scored a season-high three times in Sunday’s 5-3 victory over the Penguins’ top-ranked penalty kill at The Garden.
“Practice makes perfect, and it definitely carries over into games,” said Marian Gaborik
. “We have a better idea of what we need to do out there. We have more confidence in what we are doing We’ve practiced the power play again the last couple of days, and I think that will be important for our success.”
scored two of the Rangers’ three power-play goals on Sunday, and he currently leads the team this season with six goals on the man-advantage. Like the rest of his teammates, Callahan is hoping that the Rangers have turned a corner with the power play, which is currently ranked 22nd in the league.
“We’ve been working hard on it, and the difference (the last two games) is that we got pucks to the net and we got bodies in front of the net,” said Callahan. “Hopefully, what we did on Sunday will give us some momentum and get us going with some confidence.”
Tortorella will be forced to make at least one adjustment on the top power-play unit for tonight’s game because winger Wojtek Wolski
-- who had been manning one of the points -- will not be able to play due a muscle injury in his rib cage. Wolski was forced from Sunday’s game after suffering the injury, although not before earning a power-play assist.
Wolski returned to practice on Wednesday, but was limited in what he was able to do. That’s when Tortorella decided that Wolski would sit out tonight, and Kris Newbury
was recalled from the Connecticut Whale to take his place in the lineup.
“He felt better, but the pain is in the ribs and I don’t want to put him in the lineup, have him skate five shifts, and then he’s out,” Tortorella said of Wolski’s condition. “It’s uncomfortable for him and he just can’t play.”
|Rangers rookie Mats Zuccarello will get a chance to display his slap shot tonight when he is scheduled to fill in for Wojtek Wolski at the point on the first power-play unit while Wolski recovers from an injury.
will take Wolski’s spot at the point on the first power-play unit, and it appears that Michael Del Zotto
-- who returns to the lineup tonight in the place of Steve Eminger
-- will replace Zuccarello at one of the point positions on the second power-play unit.
“He has practiced real well and I think he’s getting more comfortable in being one of the point men,” the head coach said of Zuccarello. “In the past couple of days, Zuc has looked much more comfortable, so he’ll take Wooley’s spot there.”
How long Wolski is out of the lineup is not yet known. The team is looking at his absence as a day-to-day injury, and it is possible that he could be back later this weekend.
“It felt better than the day before, and that’s a positive sign,” Wolski said on Wednesday. “This next little while we are going to be playing a lot of games, so hopefully I’ll be ready for the weekend. We’ve got some big games coming up.”
Tonight the Rangers host a Kings team that is playing its eighth consecutive game on the road to open up the month of February. After this evening’s contest, the Kings will still have two more road games to play before they finally return home to the Staples Center on Feb. 24.
No pushovers, though, following Wednesday night’s overtime shootout win over the Blue Jackets, the Kings have earned at least one point in the standings in each of their first seven games of this current road trip to put them in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
“L.A. is a good team,” said Gaborik. “We don’t play them too often so it’s going to be important to play our best, and to have contributions from everyone.”
After tonight’s match, the Rangers head to Newark where they will skate against the Devils at the Prudential Center on Friday night. Then on Sunday, the Rangers will host the Flyers in a matinee at MSG to conclude their three-games-in-four-days stretch.