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• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Don’t expect any chest-thumping, back-slapping, or self-satisfaction from the Rangers because they snapped out of their recent scoring funk with a 5-2 win on Thursday night against the Islanders. The team is more concerned with building upon that victory this afternoon when they skate against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center.
“We can’t be easily satisfied,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We need to raise what we are going to be. We need to raise that standard for how you play.”
Thursday’s victory was far from perfect, as the head coach quickly pointed out following the game, but it was at the same time a reward for doing many things well.
It all started for the Rangers in goal, as it usually does, with Henrik Lundqvist turning in a brilliant 35-save performance. Lundqvist was at his best when his team needed him the most in the first period when the Islanders had the early upper hand.
However, it wasn’t all about Lundqvist on Thursday. The Rangers pumped in five goals, three on the power play, and were a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill.
In addition to the amount of goals scored by the Rangers, it was the fashion in which four of them were scored that was encouraging. Both of Ryan Callahan’s two goals, as well as those netted by Chris Drury and Artem Anisimov, were scored by a Rangers’ forward driving hard to the net and scoring from within a couple feet of the cage.
In other words, “dirty” goals, the kind that Tortorella has lamented of late the Rangers have not been scoring.
“We talked about it before the game,” said Callahan, who recorded a career-high four points on Thursday. “We just wanted to keep battling and keep going here and keep battling to make things go our way. I think we did that, and it showed (Thursday) night.”
Callahan has begun to shoulder some of the scoring load that has been carried almost exclusively by teammate Marian Gaborik the past several weeks. Callahan has four goals in his last four games, and five in his last seven, to give him nine on the season, second on the team behind Gaborik’s league-leading 24.
Anisimov’s goal, his sixth this year, was his first in 11 games. Drury’s score snapped a 19-game drought, and was his third of the season.
Gaborik also scored a goal, and finished with three points for his 14th multiple-point game already this year. He is up to 45 points now on the season, three shy of league-leader Joe Thornton of San Jose.
Callahan’s two goals and Gaborik’s tally were all scored on the revived Rangers power play, which has now converted on seven of its last 19 opportunities over the previous four games.
One major change on the Rangers’ top power play unit was that veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival replaced forward Ales Kotalik, who was scratched from the lineup, at the point opposite rookie Michael Del Zotto. Rozsival responded with quick puck movement and decision making, helping the power play have a big night.
Rozsival had an impressive all-around game with two assists -- including one on the power play -- and a game-high 26:37 worth of ice-time.
“I thought Rozie played pretty well,” said Tortorella. “And he did a good job on the power play.”
As for scratching Kotalik and defenseman Wade Redden against the Islanders, Tortorella said several times on Thursday and Friday that he was just doing what he felt was best for the team. Tortorella said that he was not trying to motivate or intimidate either player, or those who still remained in the lineup.
On Friday Tortorella stated that he would use the same lineup today as he did in Thursday’s victory, which was the Rangers’ first in six games (1-3-2). That means the two veterans will once again be scratched in favor of rookie defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti and newcomer forward Erik Christensen.
When asked about the skakeup, and how there could be more moves made by the head coach, Drury said, “I don’t care where I am in the lineup or how I am used. I just want to come to the rink and get two points. That’s it.”
This afternoon’s opponent, the Flyers, has also been struggling recently. Philly has just one win in its previous five matches (1-3-1), scoring only seven goals in that span. The Flyers are 2-8-1 in their last 11 games.
Entering play today, the Flyers sit in last place in the Atlantic Division with 32 points, although only just one point behind both the Rangers and Islanders.
Philly will receive a big boost today with Simon Gagne’s return to the lineup. The talented sniper has been out since Oct. 25 following hernia surgery.
But as usual, Tortorella is more focused on his own club heading into this afternoon’s key divisional battle.
“We’ve got to start becoming a team,” said Tortorella. “It is December, late December here, and it’s important for us to become a team, and play as a team and play for one another. I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet.”
Following today’s matinee the Rangers continue on the road with a tilt in Carolina against the struggling Hurricanes on Monday night. The Rangers then play their final game before the Christmas holiday next Wednesday at Madison Square Garden against the Florida Panthers.
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