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• Tonight's Game Notes
• Rangers Call Up Grachev from Hartford
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Tonight at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers look to get back to their hard-working, 60-minute ways when they host the Carolina Hurricanes in the finale of a three-game homestand.
The Blueshirts are coming off of an uneven performance in their most recent outing -- a 6-4 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night. Although they played very well at times and their no-quit attitude after falling behind 5-2 early in the third period was exemplary, the bottom line was that their three-game winning streak came to an end because they did not do enough good things over the course of the complete game to come away with a victory.
It is a lesson the players believe they have learned from quickly.
“We know we can play and we know how good we are, so now we have to get back to that and play the full 60 minutes,” said defenseman Steve Eminger. “We did a lot of good things last game, but it just wasn’t as consistent as the three before that.”
Whether or not the Rangers will have center Artem Anisimov and/or defenseman Michal Rozsival in the lineup this evening is still a bit in question, although Rangers head coach John Tortorella said he expects both banged-up players to be able to dress for the game.
Anisimov had an MRI exam on his right ankle Thursday and received the good news that there was no break. The young Russian blocked a Thrashers’ shot in the second period on Wednesday and was forced from the remainder of the contest.
Rozsival suffered a hyper-extended knee in the same game, and was seen walking around the MSG Training Center on Thursday with his left knee wrapped with an ice bag.
“We have a very deep team, I feel, and we have a lot of people waiting for a chance,” said winger Ruslan Fedotenko, who has one goal and five points on the season. “It’s unfortunate that we have a lot of injuries right now, but it’s no excuse. We just need to play better and play for the full 60 minutes.”
Another Ranger who is questionable for tonight is winger Derek Boogaard. The hulking enforcer cut his hand in a fight last Saturday with Boston’s Shawn Thornton, and the cut has since become infected.
In case Boogaard can’t play this evening, the Rangers have recalled 20-year-old forward Evgeny Grachev from Hartford, where he has one goal and two points so far this season.
“It’s unlucky,” Eminger said of the rash of injuries suffered by the Blueshirts at the start of the season, including those to key veterans Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury, and Vinny Prospal. “Sometimes there is nothing you can do about injuries. It’s lucky, or unlucky, breaks in the game. But whoever is going to be in the lineup, or steps up into a different role, I think we have the mindset to play hard and get the job done.”
Eminger and his defense partner, Matt Gilroy, were both praised by Tortorella for their efforts in Wednesday’s contest. Eminger played a season-high 15:44, blocked three shots, and was credited with three hits. Gilroy logged a season-best 16:36 worth of ice-time and fired three shots on goal.
Tortorella was also very pleased with how centers Brian Boyle and Todd White stepped up and delivered solid play -- as well as a goal apiece -- once Anisimov was injured and rookie Derek Stepan had his minutes reduced.
“Boyle has really played some big minutes when handed more responsibility the past two games,” said Tortorella. “And we’ve been looking to see if White can play in some offensive roles, and he had an opportunity (Wednesday) night and he certainly did not do a poor job.”
Tortorella said that he would consider moving Boyle up to play with Fedotenko and Sean Avery because that line was extremely effective in the third period against Atlanta. On the season, Avery has been, perhaps, the team’s most consistent player, recording seven points (1-6-7) in eight games, and Fedotenko has three assists in his last two contests. Boyle, who scored four goals all of last season, has three already this year.
As for Stepan, the 20-year-old has admittedly struggled the last couple of games, though Tortorella believes this is just the natural process that a first-year player must work his way through.
“I think he understands the game, and he self-assesses well, but I think we are going to have to go through a bit of a learning curve with him as far as some of the details of the game,” Tortorella said of Stepan, who has three goals and five points in eight games. “That’s part of our job now, and then we’ll see if he can answer and correct them. This isn’t going to be the only dip, but this is going to help him.”
Carolina enters play with a record of 4-4-0 following a 3-0 shutout loss at home to the Capitals on Wednesday. That game was the first played by the Hurricanes in their home building, the RBC Center, all season, though they had one other “home” game on their ledger, played in Finland against the Minnesota Wild to start the season.
Last year the Rangers and ‘Canes split their four-game season series two games apiece, with the visiting team winning all four games and the home team scoring only one goal in each of the four contests.
The Rangers are 4-3-1 overall coming into play tonight, but just 1-2-1 at The Garden.
“I don’t know what it’s all about, but we just need to learn to take advantage of our home games, home ice, and home crowds” said Fedotenko. “We are definitely working on it and that’s definitely our goal.”
Immediately following tonight’s game, the Rangers will head for Toronto, where they will skate against the Maple Leafs for the third time already this season on Saturday night.
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