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• Tonight's Game Notes
• Saturday's Recap: Lundqvist Blanks Leafs
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Fresh off victory over an Original Six foe Saturday night in Toronto, the Rangers face a stiffer test this evening when they host another Original Six squad, the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers won’t just have to be at the top of their collective game against the Blackhawks this evening, they will also have to battle through some fatigue as they play their fourth game in a span of six nights.
No matter the mounting obstacles, however, the hard-working Blueshirts are poised to piece together a solid 60 minutes tonight at MSG.
“We respect our opponent, but we have to make sure about ourselves,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “I think we have some good things to build off of (Saturday) night’s game, to keep on growing, and try to get another game.”
The Rangers blanked the Maple Leafs up in Toronto 2-0 on Saturday night to snap a two-game slide. Henrik Lundqvist turned in a brilliant 36-save performance to earn his 25th career shutout, and first of the season.
After admittedly feeling a bit off his game the first few outings this year, Lundqvist believes that he is rounding into form now.
“The last four-to-five games I have felt really good about my game,” said Lundqvist, who is 4-3-1 with a 2.76 goals against average and .921 save percentage in eight starts this season. “The extra practice time helped a lot, and now -- even when I gave up four goals against Carolina (on Friday night) -- I think I have been playing well.”
As center Brian Boyle pointed out after Saturday’s win, “It starts from the goal on out for us to achieve success.” His point was that the team concept centers on the Rangers playing well defensively, with goaltenders Martin Biron and Lundqvist, obviously, a big part of that.
“It’s pretty fun playing in front of (Lundqvist) because even if you make a mistake he’s usually going to come up with the save anyway,” stated alternate captain Ryan Callahan. “He’s played great for us the last few games, though unfortunately we’ve been giving up too many chances. But he was really there for us (Saturday) night.”
Callahan has not only been a big part of the Rangers team-wide defensive effort night-in and night-out, but he has become a major offensive force, as well. Including his goal on a penalty shot Saturday vs. the Maple Leafs, he has recorded goals in four consecutive games and has points in six straight (four goals, five assists, and nine points in that span). On the season, Callahan is the team’s leading scorer with 11 points in 10 games (4-7-11).
Boyle, too, has four goals, tying Callahan for second most on the club, one behind Brandon Dubinsky who has five. That goal total not only equals Boyle’s single-season career best, but is the same total as he had in 71 games a year ago.
Boyle’s transformation from a fourth-line player who was in danger of not making the team heading into training camp, to one being double-shifted by his head coach to maximize the rewards from his strong all-around play this season has been profound.
“At the start of our camp he was on the outside looking in, but he came to camp and earned a position and continues to build on his game,” Tortorella said of Boyle. “We’ve been hard on him trying to develop him, and he accepts it and takes it, and he’s become a really important guy.”
Tonight, the Rangers face the stiff challenge posed by the defending champs, who have played the most games -- 13 -- in the NHL so far this season. Chicago is 7-5-1 -- good for 15 points -- as each and every club they skate against looks to measure itself against the champions.
“Chicago’s not the same team they were last year, but they’re still a good hockey team,” said Rangers center Erik Christensen. “It’s a really good test for us.”
Due to salary cap issues, the Blackhawks were forced to alter their roster this season in somewhat dramatic fashion, losing a slew of key ingredients that helped make the Stanley Cup a possibility a year ago.
Still, Chicago boasts a lineup featuring the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Duncan Keith among others, although a pair of stars -- Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell -- will be out of the lineup tonight due to injury.
“They’ve still got the core guys there and a good squad,” said Brandon Prust. “We’ve got to make sure to play a full 60 minutes because they can bury you. They can bury you quick.”
The Rangers and Blackhawks met just once last season -- a game that the Rangers lost 2-1 in overtime on the road. Dating back to the 2006-07 season, however, the Rangers have won three of their last four meetings with Chicago, including two straight at MSG.
Lundqvist is 3-0-2 all-time vs. Chicago with a sterling 1.76 goals against average in five starts.
Following tonight’s battle the Rangers have a pair of days off before playing two important games against Atlantic Division rivals later in the week. On Thursday night the Rangers play in Philadelphia, facing the Flyers for the first time this season. And on Friday evening they visit the Devils at the Prudential Center.
|Nov 01 '10||CHI 2 at NYR 3||E. Christensen|
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