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• Game Notes
• Gaborik: I'm Ready to Go
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers host the Buffalo Sabres tonight at Madison Square Garden, the third of four games on this current homestand for the Blueshirts, and the first in the past 13 with Marian Gaborik in the lineup.
Gaborik, who led the Rangers with 42 goals and 86 points last season, declared himself fit enough to resume game action following Wednesday’s practice, and head coach John Tortorella later confirmed that the team’s top sniper will suit up this evening against the Sabres.
“It’s tough to watch, because the guys are working hard out there and there is nothing you can really do to help out,” said Gaborik. “But I’ve tried to keep a positive attitude and now I am very excited to get back in there.”
Gaborik has missed the past 12 games after separating his shoulder in the Rangers’ home opener on Oct. 15 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In his absence, the Blueshirts won six games and lost six, while establishing their identity as a hard-working club.
Now that the Rangers have proven they can play well without Gaborik, everyone is excited to see what the club can accomplish with its star forward back in the lineup.
“He’s a talent,” Tortorella said of Gaborik. “(Tuesday) night we’re one big defensive play or one big offensive play away of winning a hockey game against a pretty good team (the Washington Capitals), and you hope that a guy like him can provide that. He’s done it before for us. So now he’s going to play and, hopefully, do some good things for us.”
It will still be some time before Gaborik’s shoulder is fully healed, but he and the trainers believe it is strong enough to withstand the rigors of game action. Still, Gaborik is aware that playing in a game will be something different from taking part in practices.
“A game is totally different because you never know what’s going to happen, there are unexpected moves out there,” said Gaborik, who has two assists in three games so far this season. “But I can’t wait forever, so I want to get back in and play. Obviously it’ll take some time for the shoulder to feel 100 percent, but I feel good enough to play.”
Tortorella was unsure on Wednesday which player would come out of the lineup to make room for Gaborik or who his linemates would be. Gaborik started the season skating with Erik Christensen and Alex Frolov, but Tortorella would not commit to any combination on Wednesday.
One thing the head coach does know is that his team will continue to play the same style with Gaborik in the lineup as it has been playing without him.
“We have to play the same way, and Gaby buys into that,” said Tortorella. “We have to continue with what we’ve been doing in all areas of the ice and he’ll join in with us.”
While Gaborik returns to the lineup, veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival will not be able to play this evening. Rozsival will be sidelined for the next seven to 10 days due to a sore shoulder.
Rozsival, who has two goals, six assists, and eight points while averaging more than 23 minutes of ice-time per game this season, has been playing with the shoulder injury for awhile and finally decided that he needed to rest it so that it does not become a more major setback.
“He has had problems shooting the puck because of the shoulder, but he has stuck it out and played through the injury,” Tortorella said of Rozsival. “But now it just got so bad that he needs to strengthen it.”
Losing Rozsival is a problem for the Rangers blueline because of the minutes he plays, and all of the important situations he sees. Tortorella said that at even-strength he will pair Marc Staal with Dan Girardi tonight, while Steve Eminger moves up to play with Michael Del Zotto, and Matt Gilroy returns to the lineup for the first time in six games to pair with Michael Sauer.
It is just another hurdle for the Rangers to overcome. The Blueshirts have already lost a total of 45 man-games to injury this season, with Gaborik missing all but three games, team captain Chris Drury all but one, and veteran forward Vinny Prospal yet to play in a single contest.
“It’s time for someone else to seize an opportunity,” Tortorella said emphatically.
Another hurdle for the Rangers to overcome is winning on home ice. They have dropped the first two games of this homestand -- albeit to two of the best teams in the NHL at present, the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals -- and are 2-5-1 at The Garden this season.
However, the players are confident that if they stay true to their collective strong work-ethic and do not deviate from their grinding, attacking style of play, things will turn around for them at MSG.
“We just need to show up and play hard every day, that’s what we are trying to create as our identity whether it’s at home or on the road,” said Sauer, the rookie defenseman who has quietly played very solid hockey the past two weeks. “I think we show up every game, so it’s more of a fluke that things haven’t gone our way at home, but if we maintain what we are doing good things will happen.”
The Rangers squared off with the Sabres once already this season -- on opening night Oct. 9 up in Buffalo -- with the Blueshirts skating to a 6-3 victory. In that game, rookie Derek Stepan scored three goals in his NHL debut, and Brandon Dubinsky notched a pair.
Following this evening’s contest, the Rangers will wrap up this homestand with a tilt against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday afternoon before heading to Pittsburgh to visit the Penguins on Monday night.
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