|NSH||1||1||0||(0 - 0)||2|
|NYR||0||1||0||(0 - 0)||1|
Please Note: Tonight’s Rangers vs. Predators game is scheduled to be played as planned with a 7 p.m. start
• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The NHL’s Olympic break may be less than a week away, but the Rangers are fully aware that they have three important games requiring their full attention and effort before the brief mid-season vacation that awaits.
The first of those games takes place tonight at Madison Square Garden, as the Rangers play host to the Nashville Predators.
“I don’t think anyone in here is even thinking about the break,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who will also start between the pipes for Sweden in the upcoming Olympics. “Every game is so important to us now. We want to be here and be ready for each game that is left.”
With home games against the Predators tonight and Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday afternoon sandwiching a road contest Friday night in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, the Rangers are hoping to improve upon their current 10th-place seeding in the tight Eastern Conference before the break arrives.
“All we can do is focus on (Wednesday’s) game against Nashville and getting those two points,” said center Olli Jokinen, who will play a major role for Finland in the Olympics. “Every game is a playoff game. We’re right there in the mix, but we can’t afford to lose any focus just because there is the break coming up. We have to stay focused and get those two points (Wednesday) and then the next two after that.”
Whether or not the team’s leading scorer, Marian Gaborik, will be in the lineup to help the Rangers earn those two points tonight is still in question. Gaborik suffered a laceration on his right knee in a freak accident near the end of practice on Tuesday, and it is not known if he will be able to play this evening.
Gaborik, who has a team-high 35 goals and 69 points, was engaged in a breakaway drill against Lundqvist when the accident occurred. He was hurt when Lundqvist dove to the ice and Gaborik jumped over the goaltender only to have Lundqvist’s skate blade cut him on the knee.
The Slovak sniper limped off the ice under his own power and later received stitches at the MSG Training Center.
“It’s not like a twist to a groin or a knee or anything like that,” Rangers assistant coach and assistant general manager Jim Schoenfeld reported after practice. “It’s a laceration. I don’t want to speculate about (Wednesday).”
Lundqvist explained afterwards that he thought Gaborik was joking by laying down face-first on the ice after jumping over him. He quickly realized that Gaborik was hurt, however, and went to his aid.
“I don’t even want to talk about that,” Lundqvist said of the possibility of Gaborik missing any playing time.
Schoenfeld and assistant coaches Mike Sullivan and Benoit Allaire ran practice in the absence of head coach John Tortorella on Tuesday. Tortorella was in Massachusetts attending funeral services for Brendan Burke, the son of Maple Leafs general manager and U.S. Olympic team general manager Brian Burke. Tortorella will be back behind the bench tonight.
The Rangers are coming off a 3-1 victory over the Devils Saturday night at The Garden. Lundqvist was sensational with 41 saves, and Gaborik, Ryan Callahan, and Chris Drury all contributed second-period goals.
The three off-days in between Saturday’s game and tonight’s contest is the longest such stretch for the Rangers since their three off-days Dec. 27-29. In the month of January the Rangers played 16 games in 31 days, and from Jan.2 though last Saturday it was 19 games in 36 days.
“It’s been very good for us to get a couple days of practice before we make this last big push before the break,” said Lundqvist. “These few days have been really good for us to regroup and reenergize.”
Like the Rangers, Nashville enters play this evening in a battle for a playoff spot, too, though in the Western Conference, not the East. So as important as these two points are for the Blueshirts, so, too, are they vital for the Predators, which should make for another intense match-up.
This will be the second of back-to-back games for the Predators, who lost to the Islanders in an overtime shootout on Tuesday night.
“The level of intensity as the season goes along just keeps elevating,” said Schoenfeld. “You can just see it. There’s more blood, there’s more cuts, there’s more bruises because everything is ratcheted up. They’re all hard games. And we’re expecting the same these next three games before the break.”
|Feb 10 '10||NSH 2 at NYR 1||C. Wilson|
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