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• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Two teams off to quick starts this season meet at Madison Square Garden tonight, as the Rangers, winners of five in a row, host the Los Angeles Kings, who have won four straight themselves.
“It should be fun,” said Rangers center Brian Boyle, who was originally the Kings’ first round pick in the 2003 draft. “They’ve been doing pretty well and had some success, but we need to just go out and win and keep playing well ourselves.”
The Rangers acquired Boyle from Los Angeles in a draft-day trade last June, and the 6-foot-7 forward has proceeded to make the team out of training camp and anchor the fourth line over the first six games of the regular season. Although he has yet to record a point, Boyle has played a key role on the team’s penalty-killing unit and been used to take several key faceoffs already this season.
Boyle is also coming off a season-high 11:26 worth of ice-time in the Rangers’ 7-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night at The Garden, and he is looking forward to facing his former team tonight.
“I still have a lot of friends over there, but they won’t be friends (tonight), for sure,” explained Boyle, who notched eight goals in 36 games with the Kings over the past two seasons. “I want to go out and do well for this club first and foremost, for the Rangers. That’s my main focus, doing well for us, and contribute to a win for us.”
While Boyle will have a bit more personal incentive this evening, he and his teammates will be intent on winning their sixth straight contest, something the Rangers have not done since winning seven in a row from Feb. 1-March 2, 2006.
The team’s 7-2 thrashing of the Maple Leafs on Monday was impressive on many different levels, not the least of which was the fact that eight different players recorded multiple-point games. Defenseman Dan Girardi notched the first two-goal outing of his NHL career, Sean Avery also scored twice, and Artem Anisimov recorded two assists for the first multi-point game of his young career.
Following practice on Tuesday, Rangers head coach John Tortorella expressed how happy he is to see both of his young centerman -- Boyle is 24 and Anisimov is 21 - improving with each game they play.
“They are guys that we are trying to teach along the way,” explained Tortorella. “It’s not always going to be perfect, but I think they are going (up) not (down). So that is good news.”
Anisimov enters play tonight having recorded points in three straight contests, totaling four points (1-3-4) in that span. He is one of a long line of Rangers with consecutive-games point-scoring streaks.
Winger Marian Gaborik has notched at least one point in all six games so far this season, leading the Rangers with five goals and nine points. Vinny Prospal, who had pair of assists on Monday, has points in five straight games (1-6-7). And Ales Kotalik, with an assist against the Maple Leafs, now has produced points in four straight (3-2-5).
“I think (mental toughness) and the conditioning level we’ve brought in this year are two big keys for us,” center Brandon Dubinsky said in trying to explain the Rangers’ hot start. “And everyone is stepping up and making big plays at big times, and Henrik (Lundqvist) is being Henrik. It’s been a collective thing, I guess.”
After six games this season, the Rangers (5-1-0) are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Eastern Conference, allowing just 12 goals while scoring 24 of their own.
The Rangers also got off to a fast start last season, winning their first five games, eventually posting a 10-2-1 record after 13 games, before cooling off and then having to finish strong after Tortorella took over as head coach just in order to make the playoffs.
It is a lesson that Dubinsky and those who remain from last year’s Rangers squad have taken to heart.
“We’ve won five in a row, but we have found different ways to win as we go, with some battles, some comebacks, and some explosions there in the third period,” said Dubinsky. “We have to make sure we keep that consistency level this year that we didn’t have last year and treat every game like a big challenge, which it is.”
This evening’s challenge is presented by a Kings team that has not only won four in a row, but that has won the first two games of their six-game road trip. Victories over the Blues and Islanders -- by identical 2-1 scores -- have started this trek on the right foot for L.A. with big back-to-back games against the Rangers and Red Wings looming tonight and tomorrow.
Among the many keys for the Kings’ strong start to the season is the inspired play of both Anze Kopitar and veteran newcomer Ryan Smyth. Kopitar leads the team with four goals and 10 points through five games, while Smyth is tied for the team-lead with four goals and is second in points behind Kopitar with eight.
Following this evening’s contest, the Rangers hit the road for a rematch with the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday night before returning for home games against the San Jose Sharks on Monday and the Devils next Thursday.
|Feb 02 '10||NYR 1 at LAK 2||R. Smyth|
|Oct 14 '09||LAK 2 at NYR 4||B. Boyle|
|M. Del Zotto||7||2||5||7||+2||2||1||1|