|NYR||0||1||0||0||1 (1 - 2)||2|
|FLA||0||0||1||0||0 (0 - 3)||1|
• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Fresh off a seven-goal outburst and a win over Columbus on Monday night at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers might have more good news in store when they open up a three-game road trip this evening against the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center.
If all goes well during the morning skate, Rangers captain Chris Drury will return to the lineup after a five-game absence due to a concussion suffered on Nov. 7 in Calgary.
“He’s going to play,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said emphatically after practice on Tuesday morning.
After gaining clearance from team doctors, Drury returned to the ice and skated on his own for 30 minutes on Saturday morning. The next three days he took part in practice with his teammates, feeling no after-effects from his concussion.
“It’s good to get back into the swing of things,” said Drury on Tuesday. “It’s good to work out with the guys, sweat a little, bump some guys on the ice. Every day my conditioning gets better.”
As for returning to the lineup tonight, Drury is cautiously optimistic.
“I am travelling with the team and hope to get in there (tonight),” Drury said. “We’ll see what happens, but I don’t anticipate any issues.”
Drury’s return would settle things for the Rangers at the center-ice position. Wingers Christopher Higgins and Ryan Callahan have been among those who have attempted to fill the void left down the middle because of the injuries to Drury and Brandon Dubinsky, two of the Rangers’ top centers.
“It’ll solidify things there,” Tortorella said. “With Dru coming back in the lineup, I’m not going to say it’s going to be for eight or nine minutes. He’s going to play. We’re going full bore with him.”
Drury will rejoin a team that broke out of its recent collective offensive slump with seven goals in a 7-4 victory on Monday night. Five different Rangers scored goals in the game, led by Marian Gaborik and Sean Avery, who each netted a pair. Nine of the 18 skaters notched at least one point, with Gaborik pacing the field with four and Anisimov establishing a career-high with three (one goal, two assists).
For many of the Rangers, the points they recorded, or the goals they scored, on Monday were their first in a long time. Avery had gone 15 games without scoring a goal. It had been 13 games between goals for rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Fellow rookie Matt Gilroy notched his first goal in 12 games.
“They feel the pressure,” Tortorella said of his players. “They hear the boos at times out there. They don’t want to play badly. It’s a good group of guys here, and for the past few hours they can feel good about themselves. Hopefully that loosens them up for the next games coming here.”
Now that the Rangers -- who had scored only 10 goals in their previous five games prior to Monday night-- broke through in one area, they would like to break through in another.
The Rangers have not won two games in a row since their seventh straight win on Oct. 17. Since that point, when they owned a 7-1-0 record, they have gone 5-9-1.
They most certainly want to change that trend this evening when they face a Panthers team that skated into The Garden and came away with a 3-2 road victory this past Saturday night.
“This is a big road trip for us,” said defenseman Wade Redden. “We want to put a streak together.”
Added Tortorella, “We haven’t won two games in a row in a while, so we’re trying to go into Florida, against a team that is playing really well, and find a way to win a hockey game. And if we do that, then you’re feeling better and more confidence comes your way.”
Although Drury is likely returning to the lineup tonight, another veteran forward may be sitting out this evening’s match. Ales Kotalik did not practice on Tuesday after suffering an unspecified injury during Monday’s game. Tortorella says that a game-time decision will be made tonight on Kotalik’s ability to play or not.
After the game against the Panthers, the Rangers head to Tampa where they will face-off with Tortorella’s former team, the Lightning, on Friday night. Then the club travels to Pittsburgh to conclude the road trip against the Penguins on Saturday.
|M. Del Zotto||24||5||11||16||+0||14||3||1|