Rangers prepared to go all out at San Jose tonight
• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
When the Rangers take to the ice tonight at HP Pavilion in San Jose, they will neither be thinking about the Eastern Conference standings nor about how their nearest competitors for playoff positioning are faring in other NHL games. Instead the Rangers will be focused squarely on the task at hand -- looking to secure a victory and two vital points when they face-off against the Sharks.
“We are not even thinking about (the standings),” Rangers head coach John Tortorella following practice in San Jose on Friday. “We are only looking at our next game and trying to be the best we can be. And we knew this was going to be a dogfight. But we’re in it, and we’re happy about being in it.”
|Rangers forward Vinny Prospal enters play tonight in the midst of a five-game scoring streak. Prospal has tallied nine points over the past eight games.
The Rangers are coming off a disappointing 5-2 loss at Anaheim to open up their West Coast trip on Wednesday. In the two days that followed, Tortorella and the coaching staff put the team through a pair of hard practices as well as extensive video sessions to prepare them for the final 12 games of the regular season and the battle for a playoff spot.
Both the players and their head coach believe that the past two days have been very beneficial to help the team better achieve its goals moving forward.
“We’re always learning, every day,” said center Brian Boyle
, whose 20 goals ties him with Ryan Callahan
and Brandon Dubinsky
for the team lead. “And the meetings and video have really helped us to see the mistakes we made in that Anaheim game. Bottom line is it can’t happen again. We have to be better. And I think we will be.”
Despite the recent surge of the Buffalo Sabres in the East, as well as the constant threat of the Carolina Hurricanes, Tortorella and his team remain confident in one another and in their style of play. But the Rangers are also very much aware that winning more games is imperative if they wish to succeed in reaching the postseason.
“Words are only words,” said Dubinsky, who tallied a goal for the Rangers in Wednesday’s game along with Marian Gaborik
. “We not only have to talk about it, but we actually have to believe in it. And I think we do, and I think that puts us in good shape. I think we have that confidence and we will approach (tonight’s) game with that same confidence.”
Tortorella leaves no doubt where he stands regarding his team.
“I have confidence in the club,” Tortorella stated flatly. “This is a different team from last year, but we’re in the same spot trying to get in (to the playoffs). But I’m glad we’re there. There are some teams that aren’t. We’re just going to grab a hold of it and do the best we can.”
|Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan got his 20th assist of the season on Wednesday to tie his career-high of 40 points. He has averaged a point per game since coming back from a broken hand.
The Rangers are 6-7-0 in their last 12 games, a pattern that -- if duplicated over these last 13 games to close out the regular season -- would earn them 86 total points. That amount would likely fall short of what will be needed to secure a postseason berth in the competitive Eastern Conference.
But looking that far ahead is not something the Blueshirts plan to do. It might be a cliché, but the Rangers are focusing clearly on one game at a time. They believe that if they take care of things in this manner, then when the regular season is complete they will have snagged a spot in the playoffs.
“We all know what we want and where we want to go,” said Dubinsky. “And we know how to get there, how we need to play. Now we just need to get it done. Simple as that.”
Of course knocking off one of the best teams in the Western Conference this evening will be no simple task. The Sharks, coming off a wild 5-4 shootout defeat to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, have 85 points and currently hold down the No. 3 seed out west. They are 9-1-1 in their last 11 games and are one win away from 40 on the season.
“We can’t go in there scared to lose and be intimidated or worried about how good San Jose is,” said Dubinsky. “We have to worry about the New York Rangers and make sure we approach this game with confidence.”
Following tonight’s contest, the Rangers will return to New York where a home game against the Islanders on Tuesday awaits at Madison Square Garden. Four of the next five games for the Rangers will take place on home ice.