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Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:46 AM
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Phoenix Coyotes vs. New York Rangers

• Game Notes

By Jim Cerny,

Although the Rangers have managed to pick up only one point in their last three games -- a 5-4 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night, head coach John Tortorella doesn’t want his players to deviate from their aggressive style of play when they return to action this evening against the Phoenix Coyotes at Madison Square Garden.

“We’re going to be aggressive,” said Tortorella. “We’re going to keep working on this, it’s just a matter of support.”

Several times during Saturday’s OT loss, Rangers players were beaten up ice and, as a result, the Canadiens had odd-man rushes leading to goals or excellent scoring chances. While Tortorella liked how aggressive his team was in the offensive zone, and how effective it was in the neutral zone, he was not thrilled with their effort returning to the defensive zone to help out goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

“There were some good minutes we played in the neutral zone, but we’re getting beat up the ice as far as our backcheck,” said the Blueshirts head coach. “We need to be better on the backcheck. We need to support better.”

Interestingly, Tortorella lamented following Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Devils that, even though his team hustled to be back in good position in the defensive zone, they were caught flat-footed and allowed New Jersey to skate past for two of their four goals.

So one type of defensive issue has been replaced by another. Not surprisingly, the Rangers have allowed 16 goals during the past three games.

“We’ve got some things to work on,” said team captain Chris Drury.

Despite having lost three games in a row, Tortorella has also been quick to point out the many positive aspects of his club, not the least of which has been the play of star winger Marian Gaborik.

On Saturday night, Gaborik logged 23:11 of ice-time, finishing with two points, including a highlight-reel breakaway goal in the second period. The incredibly talented Slovak has now recorded points in 10 of the 11 games the Rangers have played this season, pacing the team with eight goals and 15 points.

“Gabby has been rock solid in a lot of different areas for this hockey club,” said the head coach. “He’s going to be very important if we want to have success here.”

Gaborik and Vinny Prospal have developed a quick, and impressive, on-ice chemistry, even with Prospal’s recent shift to center from left wing. Like Gaborik, Prospal has delivered offensively with three goals, 10 assists, and 13 points, while also playing a smart all-around game.

Trusted in every game situation by Tortorella, Prospal has received large chunks of ice-time so far this season, just as Gaborik has. Prospal led all forwards with 24:51 worth of ice-time on Saturday, passionately working all three zones of the ice all night long.

Those two key forwards have welcomed 23-year-old Enver Lisin to the top line, and Lisin did not look out of place on Saturday. Lisin earned an assist on Gaborik’s goal, recorded three shots and two hits, and finished with a plus-two plus/minus rating. In addition, his tremendous work ethic dovetails perfectly with those of both Gaborik and Prospal.

“I think he’s quick learner,” Tortorella said of Lisin, who is 2-4-6 in 11 games. “He’s still just a kid trying to adjust to a new team, a trade, a new team concept. I think he’s improved along the way here, and he’s going to get a chance to be put in an offensive position.”

Another younger player who has impressed the coaching staff, not only for his big goal and five shots on Saturday, but for his mature two-way game so far throughout his rookie season, is 25-year-old defenseman Matt Gilroy.

Known more for his offensive prowess upon entering his first pro training camp this fall, Gilroy has surprised observers with how well he has adjusted to playing defense at the National Hockey League level.

“I think he has fast-tracked a little bit, understanding what it means to be a pro,” Tortorella said of Gilroy. “For a young player, he has all of those special intangibles.”

Tonight the Rangers will look to get back on the winning track against a surprising Coyotes team that is 6-3-0 to start the 2009-10 season. Phoenix had a four-game winning streak snapped in a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. However during that streak, the Coyotes reeled off victories against four playoff teams of a year ago -- the Sharks, Blues, Bruins, and Red Wings.

In bankruptcy, and still without a long-term owner, the Coyotes have shown much heart and resiliency so far this year. With popular former Rangers forward and executive Don Maloney setting the professional tone, and new head coach Dave Tippett leading the way on the ice, the Coyotes have played great defense -- only 17 goals allowed in nine games, backstopped chiefly by Ilya Bryzgalov -- and scored just enough timely goals to win six of nine games.

The Coyotes will be kicking off a three-game road trip tonight in a building where the Rangers opened up with four straight wins on home ice before suffering two straight defeats.

The Rangers will be aiming to snap that losing skid on home ice, as well as their three-game overall slide, tonight. Following this evening’s contest, the Rangers hit the road with stops at the Nassau Coliseum for a match against the Islanders on Wednesday and at Xcel Energy Center to face the Minnesota Wild on Friday.

2009-2010 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Jan 30 '10 NYR 2 at PHX 3 S. Lepisto
Oct 26 '09 PHX 2 at NYR 5 V. Prospal
S. Doan103710+0220
E. Jovanovski10459+2622
A. Aucoin10246+31402
R. Vrbata10415+3611
M. Lombardi9325+1620
V. Fiddler10134+3200
D. Winnik10134+2000
R. Lang10134-1000
Z. Michalek10044+2600
S. Upshall10303+01400
P. Prucha10213+1210
M. Hanzal10033+02500
K. Yandle10112-4410
J. Vandermeer10022+4600
P. Mueller10022+1200
S. Lepisto9011+0600
T. Pyatt5011-1200
L. Korpikoski7000-1000
M. Boedker5000+0000
P. Bissonnette4000+11200
K. Sauer1000+1000
I. Bryzgalov96-3-0172061.97.917
J. LaBarbera20-1-03521.98.942
M. Gaborik1210818+6441
V. Prospal1241216+8821
A. Kotalik125712-31221
M. Del Zotto124812+4631
B. Dubinsky12369+61400
E. Lisin12358+1000
D. Girardi12347-11001
A. Anisimov12336-2610
S. Avery8246+21110
R. Callahan12235+2210
C. Drury12235-11000
W. Redden12134+4200
M. Staal12134-2601
M. Rozsival12044+5600
M. Gilroy12213+5201
B. Boyle12112+01101
C. Higgins12022-21200
D. Brashear9011-22300
A. Voros7011+11400
H. Lundqvist117-2-1273192.61.915
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