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• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers are hosting one of their biggest rivals, the New Jersey Devils, tonight at Madison Square Garden, but the team and its coach are less concerned with who their opponent is than with how they plan to play their own game.
Following a 7-3 defeat on home ice at the hands of the San Jose Sharks on Monday night, the Rangers are completely focused on getting back to playing the successful puck-possession game that was a staple for much of the seven-game winning streak that ended on Monday.
“You don’t want to lose two in a row, so we want to re-establish ourselves in our home building,” head coach John Tortorella said after practice on Wednesday.
As for the Devils being tonight’s opponent, the head coach is not interested in rivalries. He just wants his team to regain its collective footing this evening.
“I don’t even think of that,” said Tortorella. “It’s another team, a good team, and I am just concentrating on what we need to do in order to win. That’s good stuff for the fans, but it’s just another game for us that we are going to try and win.”
At 7-2-0, the Rangers are off to an excellent start to the 2009-10 season. After an opening night 3-2 loss in Pittsburgh, the Rangers reeled off seven straight victories -- including four at The Garden -- before Monday’s loss.
The Sharks rallied from an early 2-0 deficit, and finished with seven goals, the first time this season that an opponent had scored more than three against the Rangers.
Turnovers, bad penalties, and lack of puck possession combined to hurt the Rangers on Monday night, issues that were raised and discussed during Wednesday’s fast-paced practice.
“Obviously there were some things we wanted to work on that we got away from the past few games,” said center Brandon Dubinsky. “We came in here and had a great work day, and I think we’re feeling good and ready to go against New Jersey.”
More than anything, Tortorella has been upset by his team’s penchant for taking too many penalties. And he has not been happy for several games with the types and timing of thosee penalties.
Following Monday’s contest, Tortorella mentioned that he may have to cut back on the ice-time of repeat offenders, a point he raised again on Wednesday. However, the head coach was also quick to point out that, “We have a good group here. They understand. They get it.”
Tortorella has also stressed that he believes the club’s concentration level needs to be better.
“It’s a lack of concentration that leads to so many penalties,” the head coach said.
Dubinsky believes that the Rangers need to simply show more discipline.
“Definitely discipline is a huge part of the game,” said Dubinsky. “We feel that we’ve got the team that plays well 5-on-5, and our power play is running well right now. If we can find a way to stay out of the box, and keep the momentum swings on our side, we’ll be all right.”
The power play did click again for the Rangers on Monday night, as 19-year-old defenseman Michael Del Zotto scored with the man advantage. Del Zotto has scored power play goals in back-to-back games, with three of his four goals this year coming on the power play. He now has nine points in nine games, with seven of those on the power play.
Two key members of the Rangers’ top power-play unit -- forwards Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan -- did not practice on Wednesday. Both were under the weather and were sent home by Tortorella, though both likely will play this evening.
Gaborik recorded points in his first eight games as a Ranger before being held off the scoresheet by the Sharks. However, he still leads the club with six goals and 12 points this season.
Following this evening’s match, the Rangers head up to Montreal to face the Canadiens for the first time this season on Saturday night. When they do skate in Montreal, their plan is to be carrying a win into the Bell Centre, not a two-game losing skid.
“You hear it all the time, but I think it’s important not to lose two in a row, especially two in a row at home,” said Dubinsky. “We’re excited. The Garden is going to be rocking, and we’ll be ready to go.
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