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• Game Notes
• 50th Anniversary of Plante's Mask Today
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Staring at a difficult three-game road trip through Western Canada that begins on Tuesday night, the Rangers must first skate in an important home contest this afternoon as the Boston Bruins visit Madison Square Garden for an Original Six matchup.
The Rangers are coming off back-to-back road losses -- 3-2 in Minnesota on Friday night and 3-1 against the Islanders on Wednesday -- and bring a 1-4-1 mark over their previous six matches into today’s matinee.
“There’s no magic potion trying to get out of this here,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “It’s just a matter of trying to cut down on our mistakes, especially the turnovers in the neutral zone, and go back to work and find a way.”
With leading scorer Marian Gaborik out of the lineup due to injury, the Rangers produced only three goals -- and few quality scoring chances -- over the past two games. Gaborik did take part in practice on Saturday, and there is the chance that he will be able to play this afternoon.
“I am just focusing on getting better for the upcoming games,” said Gaborik, who was quite disappointed that he was unable to play against his former team in Minnesota. “I would like to rush back and help us win, but I can only come back when I am ready. Fortunately, this (injury) is not serious.”
Gaborik’s presence on the ice Saturday was not the only positive thing to come out of practice. Forwards Sean Avery and Christopher Higgins also took part in the workout. Like Gaborik, both had sat out Friday’s contest against the Wild because of injuries.
With the three injured forwards close to returning to game action, the Rangers sent P.A. Parenteau back to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford. Parenteau had played two games since being recalled on Tuesday, scoring his first NHL goal on Long Island a day later.
Rugged forward Dane Byers has remained with the club, and he could be in the lineup today. Byers was recalled from Hartford on Friday morning and barely made it the Xcel Energy Center in time to play that night. Once in uniform and on the ice, Byers made the trip worthwhile by scoring his first NHL goal and tying for the team-lead in shots with three.
“It’s good for their confidence as far as coming to the National Hockey League and contributing,” Tortorella said of Parenteau and Byers. “They get some games. They get some minutes. And then they feel they can do it when they’re successful in some areas. That’s all good for them.”
The injuries, which afforded the two prospects an opportunity to play at the NHL level this past week, are something that the Rangers cannot use as an excuse for their recent struggling play. And Tortorella believes that his club must be prepared throughout the long season to step up collectively when the inevitable injuries do occur.
“We’d like to keep our lineup healthy all the way through, but that’s not going to happen,” said the head coach. “I think the style we are playing, there’s going to be more injuries.”
Apart from the recent spate of injuries, the Rangers are aware that there are certain areas of their game that need to be improved. Creating more -- and higher-quality -- scoring chances is paramount for the team. Limiting turnovers, especially in the neutral zone, is also quite important. And better defensive-zone man coverage rounds out the list.
Despite the recent rough patch, the Rangers remain a confident team, one that has recent memories of a seven-game winning streak earlier this month.
“I don’t think we’re frustrated,” said alternate captain Ryan Callahan. “We know we can win games. It’s not a matter of not knowing we can win games. It’s a matter of going out there and executing. I think the guys in here realize that, and we’re going to come back here and get some wins.”
This afternoon’s opponents -- the Bruins -- have had their own struggles so far this season, too. The Bruins have yet to win two games in a row, though they will be once again looking to accomplish that today, coming off an impressive 2-0 shutout victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
Last year, the Bruins finished the regular season with 116 points, tops in the Eastern Conference. This year the Bruins, at 6-5-1, are in fourth place in their own division, the Northeast. While still a talented team, the Bruins no longer have the high-scoring Phil Kessel, who was traded to Toronto during the off-season. Meanwhile, Marc Savard, an 88-point center last season, is currently injured.
One trait that the Bruins share with the Rangers so far this season is a lack of consistency in their game. That is something Tortorella wants his team to develop and maintain throughout the season.
“It’s the consistency that is frustrating me,” Tortorella said. “What’s frustrating from a coach’s point of view is that you see it, then you don’t see it. I guess it’s (the coaches) responsibility to keep hammering away, and to get it consistent, because I think that gives you a much better opportunity to win a hockey game if you are there all the time in that aspect.”
After today’s contest, the Rangers will board a plane and head out to Vancouver, where their three-game road swing commences on Tuesday. From there, the Rangers will play in Edmonton on Thursday and Calgary next Saturday, before returning to New York for a home game against the Atlanta Thrashers on Nov. 12.
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