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Rangers go for Alberta sweep tonight in Calgary

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 5:15 AM
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Rangers go for Alberta sweep tonight in Calgary
New York Rangers vs. Calgary Flames


• Game Notes

By Jim Cerny,

Tonight at the Pengrowth Saddledome, the Rangers look to end their three-game trek through Western Canada on a high note when they skate against the Calgary Flames.

After starting the trip with a 4-1 loss in Vancouver on Tuesday, the Rangers rebounded with, perhaps, their most complete 60-minute effort of the season in Thursday’s 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Contributions came from up and down the Rangers lineup, and in all facets of the game.

Backup goaltender Steve Valiquette turned in a strong start between the pipes, stopping 26 shots to earn his second victory of the season. Defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi blocked numerous shots, and were stout in their own end of the ice. Team captain Chris Drury was a game-altering force on four successful penalty kills early in the game. Ales Kotalik recorded a season-high three points. Christopher Higgins scored for the second consecutive game. Marian Gaborik notched his team-high 12th goal and added an assist. The team recorded a season-high three power play goals.

The list of team and individual accomplishments was long and impressive.

“You know there was no secret that we weren’t putting the puck into the net,” said alternate captain Ryan Callahan, who scored for the first time in 11 games on Thursday. “We wanted to get shots on the net, go hard, and I thought we focused on that in our last practice, get pucks there, get bodies there. It showed (Thursday) night that if you do that you’ll get goals.”

After scoring just five goals in their previous four matches, the Rangers had four in Thursday’s contest. Firing a season-high 39 shots on goal aided the offensive effort, as did the forwards consistency in driving hard to the net, as Callahan pointed out.

But the offensive game also benefitted from strong play by the Rangers in both the neutral and defensive zones. By controlling those areas, the Rangers severely limited Edmonton’s scoring chances, while at the same time creating a fast-paced and successful transition game.

“I think we played much smarter through the neutral zone,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “I thought we moved the puck much better from our back end to our forwards quicker to get into our forechecks.”

All six defensemen impressed in this area for the Rangers on Thursday. However, the two rookies -- Matt Gilroy and Michael Del Zotto -- really stood out with their ability to move the puck quickly and decisively, while also joining and leading rushes up ice.

Gilroy had more jump in his offensive game than in recent memory. It earned him a point when he flew into the offensive zone and completed a quick give-and-go down deep which resulted in a first-period goal for Higgins.

Both youngsters also helped spur the Rangers’ power play, which had been somewhat dormant as of late, going 0-11 the previous four games. The Rangers connected on back-to-back power plays in the second period, and iced the game with a Gaborik power play tally in the third. Both of Gaborik’s points, and all three of Kotalik’s, were produced on the power play.

“I think we weren’t static,” said Higgins. “Everyone was moving around. You’d get a pass, take a couple of strides, move it. It’s hard to defend against when a power play is moving like that. When you get a little static, those are the ones that are easy to defend against.”

The team’s strong play in their own end, specifically blocking two dozen shots, was another impressive element to Thursday’s victory -- the Rangers’ first on the road since mid-October.

“I think we took a lot of pride in our defensive zone, guys sacrificing themselves,” said Callahan. “You see a guy like (Drury) every night, he seems to take a big slapper in the stomach or in the arm or somewhere. I think guys take pride in that, and it makes them work harder.”

Now the Rangers will need to follow up that terrific all-around effort and replicate it tonight in Calgary. Off to a 9-4-1 start, and winners of five of their last seven, the Flames are a big, rugged opponent, and can pose many problems for the Rangers this evening.

On the back end the Flames feature three tough, and highly-skilled, defensemen in Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf, and Robyn Regehr. Up front the Flame are led by their superstar captain Jarome Iginla and the surprising Rene Bourque, who leads the club with 16 points.

Coached by former Devils bench boss Brent Sutter, the Flames can be a very imposing team to play against with their mixture of grit and skill. It will take a duplicate effort of their victory on Thursday for the Rangers to head home with a winning road trip.

“Hopefully we can keep up that same mentality,” said Higgins.

After tonight’s contest the Rangers will fly back to New York where four off-days await until they return to action on Thursday night, hosting the Atlanta Thrashers at Madison Square Garden.

2009-2010 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Nov 07 '09 NYR 1 at CGY 3 J. Iginla
M. Gaborik16121022+6452
V. Prospal1841620+7821
A. Kotalik186915-61632
M. Del Zotto184913+01031
B. Dubinsky183710+71800
D. Girardi18448-22001
E. Lisin17358-1400
R. Callahan18347+0420
A. Anisimov18347-1610
M. Staal18257-2801
C. Drury18246-31000
S. Avery13246-31510
W. Redden18145+3400
M. Gilroy18224+6201
C. Higgins17224-11600
M. Rozsival18044+01400
B. Boyle18112-21301
D. Byers4101+13100
P. Parenteau2101+1000
A. Voros11011-22000
D. Brashear10011-32300
H. Lundqvist158-5-1364412.52.918
S. Valiquette42-2-010862.76.884
R. Bourque1561117+01620
J. Iginla158614+12032
D. Phaneuf156410+1622
D. Langkow155510-41200
N. Dawes154610-4420
O. Jokinen15268-2800
R. Regehr15088+31700
J. Bouwmeester15167+41400
M. Giordano15167+12010
C. Glencross15426+8600
D. Boyd14246+4201
E. Nystrom15415+2701
D. Moss10325-1421
F. Sjostrom15145+5000
C. Conroy15055+31100
A. Pardy12134+2800
B. Prust11134+52501
B. McGrattan9123+31000
S. Kronwall6123-1001
C. Sarich10011+21400
A. Johnson2000+1600
J. Jaffray1000-1000
M. Kiprusoff139-3-1353972.68.912
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