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• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
When the Rangers take to the ice at Madison Square Garden to host the Anaheim Ducks at 5 p.m. this afternoon, they very well could be receiving a big boost to their lineup.
Sean Avery, who missed the first four games of the season due to a sprained knee, has taken part in full-contact practices with his teammates during the last week, and believes he is ready make his 2009-10 debut this afternoon.
“I am ready to go,” Avery said after Saturday’s practice. “It was a smart move not to have played in Washington (on Thursday), and the guys came out and played a great game and got us a win. I certainly feel like I’m ready to go now.”
Rangers head coach John Tortorella has not said whether or not Avery will return to the lineup against Anaheim, but has indicated that the gritty winger is right on the verge of rejoining the team.
With home games against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday and the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday following this afternoon’s tilt at MSG, it is pretty much a given that Avery’s season debut will take place on Garden ice.
“It’d be nice because I didn’t get to play any exhibition games at home, so it’s been a while since I played at home, since last year,” said Avery, who recorded five goals and 12 points in 18 games with the Rangers a year ago. “I love playing here, and I love the fans. It’ll be exciting, for sure.”
When the passionate Avery does return to the lineup, Tortorella knows exactly what to expect from the popular 29-year-old winger.
“Sean’s identity is a hard forechecking guy,” said the head coach. “We’re hoping that when he comes in he adds that to our team. And that’s the team we want to be. We want to be a pressure team.”
If Avery does dress today, he will be rejoining a Rangers team that has won three games in a row, including a come-from-behind 4-3 victory in Washington over the Capitals on Thursday.
In their three straight wins, the Rangers have impressed Tortorella by winning several different ways. In last Saturday’s 5-2 victory at home over the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers relied on their skating and offensive skills to earn the win. Two nights later in New Jersey, the Rangers “grinded” -- to use Tortorella’s definition -- their way to a 3-2 road victory.
And most recently, Tortorella was impressed with how “resilient” his club was, bouncing back after letting a 2-1 lead morph into a 3-2 third period deficit before rebounding for a one-goal road victory.
“You end up gaining a little success, and I think you start believing in what we can become as a team,” said Tortorella. “We have talked about from the get-go that we want to be a hard team to play against, and we want to be able to handle situations during games and not cower away from it. Early on, I think we’ve done some good things, and won some hockey games.”
Tortorella has stressed that his team needs to play on a more consistent plane, although with nine new faces in the lineup, he is not surprised at some of the ups and downs the Rangers have shown in each of their four games, so far.
One player he has pointed to as a model of consistency is alternate captain Ryan Callahan, whose inspiring effort helped lead the Rangers to victory on Thursday.
Callahan was slowed in the morning skate by tightness in his back, and was questionable for the game itself. By time the final buzzer had sounded, Callahan had not only excelled on the penalty kill -- helping the Rangers kill off eight of nine Capitals power plays, including a pair of two-man disadvantages -- he had also scored an important goal and logged 22:12 worth of ice-time.
“I think it’s just the way I try to mentally prepare for games, and I take a lot of pride in how I try to stay consistent,” said Callahan, who 1-1-2 in four games this season. “One thing you can control is how you work every night. So every night I try and go out there and do whatever I can for the team.”
Callahan can expect to skate alongside Chris Drury and Christopher Higgins against the Ducks, even if Avery returns to the lineup. Tortorella said on Friday that he would not break up either of his top two lines -- the other consisting of Vinny Prospal, Brandon Dubinsky, and Marian Gaborik -- and that if Avery was to return, it would be on the third or fourth line.
“I’m not going to break (those) lines up, but obviously if Sean is healthy I want to get him in the lineup,” said Tortorella. “It’s going to change something, but I am not exactly sure where that is going to be.”
Last year, the Rangers swept their season series with the Ducks, winning 3-1 out in Anaheim on Dec. 16 and 4-2 at MSG on Jan. 20. Ironically, seven different Rangers scored goals against the Ducks a year ago, and only one of those players – Drury -- is still on the roster this season.
The Ducks, though, return largely intact, featuring high-scoring forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, and Teemu Selanne, plus talented defenseman Scott Niedermeyer. To that formidable mix, the Ducks did add Saku Koivu and Joffrey Lupul during the off-season.
“They’re a good team, a tough team,” said Callahan. “They are going to come into our building and provide a real good test for us.”
|Oct 11 '09||ANA 0 at NYR 3||A. Kotalik|
|M. Del Zotto||5||2||3||5||+1||2||1||1|