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• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
John Tortorella leads the Rangers into Tampa tonight to face his former team, the Lightning, at the St. Pete Times Forum for the first time since assuming the head coaching duties in New York last February. And while there will be some nostalgia in the air this evening, Tortorella is most concerned with guiding his current club to its third win in a row.
“I loved my time here,” Tortorella said after practice in Tampa on Thanksgiving Day. “I loved coaching some of those players over there. We all grew up together because we were basically together for seven years, that team. But when we start playing, and I’m coaching another team, it’s about trying to win a hockey game.”
Tortorella coached the Lightning for seven seasons, from the start of the 2000-01 campaign through the conclusion of 2007-08. He led the Lightning to four straight playoff appearances beginning in the spring of 2003, and his club won a pair of Southeast Division Championships, as well. Of course, in the spring of 2004 Tortorella guided Tampa Bay to its only Stanley Cup Championship.
While all of that is extremely important to Tortorella, as is his relationship to the city of Tampa where his family still resides during the off-season, he is the coach of the Rangers now, and there is no questioning his allegiance.
“(Friday), I have no time to think about anything else,” said Tortorella. “It’s not about me. It’s not fair -- I’m the coach of a hockey team trying to win a game, that’s all.”
Tortorella’s squad is coming off a well-played 2-1 road victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night, the first of this current three-game trip which ends in Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
The Rangers were as resilient as they were good against the Panthers. The club lost veteran defenseman Wade Redden to an upper-body injury less than five minutes into Wednesday’s contest, and then played nearly the entire third period without rookie defenseman Matt Gilroy after he racked up 17 minutes in penalties, including the first fighting major of his career.
That recipe for possible disaster was handled well by the four remaining defensemen -- Marc Staal (who logged more than 30 minutes worth of ice-time), Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto (who skated for more than 28 minutes, establishing a new career-high), and Michal Rozsival -- who all played splendid games.
They were helped out, as well, by their determined teammates who fed off team captain Chris Drury’s impressive return to the lineup and forechecked with relentless fervor, killed off all five Panthers power plays, and won the game on P.A. Parenteau’s score and Henrik Lundqvist’s perfection in the shootout.
“For the most part we defended real well and played a real good road game,” Staal said of the Rangers’ effort on Wednesday.
The Rangers’ defensemen -- as well as the forwards and goaltenders -- will be put to the test again this evening because Redden will be sidelined due to the injury he suffered in Florida. It is the first time this season that one of the Rangers’ six defensemen will miss a game.
To take Redden’s place in the lineup, the Rangers recalled their 2006 first-round pick, Bobby Sanguinetti, from the Hartford Wolf Pack. The 21-year-old second-year pro has been playing some excellent hockey so far this season at Hartford, leading all AHL defensemen, and ranking fourth amongst all players, in scoring with 22 points in 21 games.
Sanguinetti, who will be making his National Hockey League debut this evening, has already equaled his goal total of a year ago with six. During his rookie campaign in the AHL last season, Sanguinetti recorded 42 points and played in the AHL All-Star Classic.
“You can’t expect to go through a whole season without some injuries,” said Lundqvist. “We can’t use injuries as an excuse for not playing our best.”
The Rangers did get Drury back in the lineup on Wednesday after a five-game absence due to a concussion suffered in Calgary on Nov. 7. Drury played a very effective game, logging more than 22 minutes worth of ice-time, and earning an assist on Marian Gaborik’s power play goal late in the second period.
Veteran forward Ales Kotalik did not play against the Panthers due to a strained ribcage muscle, but he could return to the lineup this evening. Kotalik practiced with the club on Thursday and reported that he felt much better. Tortorella will make a game-time decision as to whether Kotalik will play or not tonight.
After this evening’s contest, the Rangers board a plane and head to Pittsburgh, where they will close out this three-game road trip with a battle against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins on Saturday. Then on Monday, the Rangers are back in action at Madison Square Garden against the very same Penguins.
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