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• Tonight's Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Rangers head coach John Tortorella really liked what he saw from his team during Thursday’s 2-1 victory in Toronto, so much so that he wants to see the Blueshirts offer up a repeat performance tonight when they face the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
“That’s how you get to be where you want to be at the end of the year, by doing it again and not just once here and there,” Tortorella said of his club’s strong all-around play in Thursday’s win. “We can’t control the result, but we certainly can control the process of trying to get the proper result. And I thought we did a pretty good job of that (Thursday) night.”
The Rangers aggressively sought and maintained puck possession throughout their win over the Maple Leafs. They forechecked with passion, and then dominated play in the neutral zone, in particular over the final four minutes of the game when a desperate Leafs squad was trying to score the tying goal.
Defensively, the Rangers turned in their best performance of the season, starting with Martin Biron’s rock-solid 24-save Blueshirt debut and rolling through an inspired effort that saw the Rangers block 30 shots over the course of the game.
“That’s how we have to play to give us an opportunity to win,” said Tortorella, whose club enters play tonight with a 2-2-1 record. “It can’t just be one night. It has to be every night.”
Saying that “everyone contributed” on Thursday night, Tortorella likely will go with the same lineup this evening against the Bruins, although he would not say after Friday’s practice if Biron would make a second straight start after playing so well in Toronto or if Henrik Lundqvist – who has a lifetime 13-4-2 record and 1.39 goals against average against the Bruins -- would be back between the pipes.
Staring at back-to-back games tonight in Boston and on Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the Devils, Tortorella has some interesting decisions to make regarding his goaltenders.
But most certainly Biron’s strong effort in his first start came as a very welcome sight to the Rangers.
“It’s good to know we’ve got a guy back there to back up Hank and do a great job for us,” defenseman Dan Girardi said of Biron.
Tortorella expects to keep his forward line combinations intact this evening. He was extremely pleased with Erik Christensen’s game centering Alexander Frolov and Brandon Prust on Thursday, even though that threesome did not score a goal.
“I thought Prust played a really good game with them, and thought Alex was really good low underneath the hash marks which is a big part of his game, and I thought Erik played harder,” said Tortorella. “I liked the way all of our lines played (Thursday) night.”
Tortorella has been so impressed with Prust that the rugged winger has moved up from the fourth line to log some valuable minutes with two of the team’s most skilled players in Frolov and Christensen, while also playing a vital role on the team’s penalty kill.
“He’s earned his time,” said the head coach. “He’s been really strong on the boards, and he’s made plays. He’s brought some offense to our game, not just with his forechecking, but he’s made some plays. He’s playing very well.”
Another younger player who has been stepping up and succeeding with more responsibility is second-year center Artem Anisimov. He has played a very good two-way game, and on Thursday scored his second goal of the season, while also creating several other excellent scoring chances.
Anisimov and Tortorella both feel that the Russian’s confidence is at a much higher level this year than last, and that is part of the reason why his overall game has elevated.
“My first year was about learning, everything was new,” said Anisimov, who has four points in the first five games this season. “This year I am more confident, I just go out and play. It’s like climbing stairs. Each game you go higher up the stairs.”
Tonight's opponent, the Boston Bruins, is off to a very strong start to the season, and will pose many challenges to the Rangers. Chief among those challenges will be the Rangers’ ability to dictate the way the game is played as they did against the Maple Leafs.
After losing on opening night to the Coyotes, the Bruins have won four games in a row, allowing only three goals in total, and never more than one in any single contest. Boston is coming off of an extremely impressive 4-1 victory over the Capitals on Thursday, and former Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas seems to be at the top of his game again after a subpar 2009-10 campaign.
“He’s one of the most competitive players in the league,” Tortorella said of Thomas. “He’s playing very well, and they’re a very good team. There’s a lot of depth right though their lineup. They’ve handled themselves very well. That’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us.”
After tonight's game, the Rangers head back to New York to finish off a stretch of three-games-in-four-nights when they host the Devils at MSG. Sunday’s contest starts a three-game homestand with the Rangers then facing the Thrashers on Wednesday and the Hurricanes on Friday.
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