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• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Last Friday night at Rockefeller Center, the Rangers unveiled their Heritage jerseys, which will celebrate the franchise’s 85th anniversary throughout the remainder this season.
Tonight at Madison Square Garden, the Blueshirts will wear those brand-new Heritage sweaters for the first time in a game when they host the Boston Bruins in an Original Six contest.
“The new jerseys look real good, but the way we are playing right now any jersey would look good on us because that’s how well we have been playing,” said winger Sean Avery.
Avery is dead-on with his observation.
The Heritage sweaters are sharp-looking third jerseys that have already become quite popular with The Garden Faithful. But the Rangers’ play of late has been just as sharp. They will carry a three-game winning streak into tonight’s match up with the Bruins, coming off an emotional 3-2 overtime victory Monday night in Pittsburgh.
“There are areas of our game that we have to improve upon, no question about it,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “But I like the way we are going about our business. We battle out there, and our guys don’t give up.”
Never this season was that more in evidence than on Monday when the Rangers let a 1-0 lead slip away to the Penguins in a span of 38 seconds late in the third period before Marc Staal tied the game with a shorthanded goal with less than 90 seconds to play and Ryan Callahan won it in overtime with his fifth goal of the season.
The dramatic turn of events in the Rangers’ favor deeply underscored the possible long-term positive effects of this victory.
“This (was) huge for our room,” said Callahan, who is second on the club with 16 points in 17 games this season. “It shows you the kind of character we have in here as a group.”
“There’s a great group of guys in our room,” said the head coach. “They try, and they care, at all times. It doesn’t always go our way, but they care. I can tell you that.”
Tonight, the Rangers are seeking their fourth consecutive victory, while also trying to bring their home-ice record back up to the .500 level.
The Rangers knocked off the Sabres 3-2 in overtime last Thursday before trouncing the Oilers 8-2 at MSG on Sunday and following that up with their dramatic win on Monday in Pittsburgh. It is the second time this season that the Blueshirts have won three games in a row. Their longest win streak last year was seven games, from Oct. 3-17, 2009.
The wins over the Sabres and Oilers on this current three-game run both came at The Garden, upping the Rangers’ home-ice mark to 4-5-1. The Rangers have not been at .500 at home yet this season.
“It is very important for us to do well on home ice,” explained rookie defenseman Michael Sauer. “And I believe things will turn around at home if we continue to do the right things and work hard. That’s the key. If we stick to it, we’ll have success there.”
This evening’s contest pits two of the top goalies in the game against one another in the expected goaltenders’ match-up.
Coming off a brilliant 37-save performance against the Penguins, Henrik Lundqvist is now 7-5-1 on the season with an excellent .921 save percentage and solid 2.61 goals against average. His Boston counterpart likely will be Tim Thomas, the 2009 Vezina Trophy winner who earned his fourth shutout of the season Monday night, blanking the Devils 3-0.
After losing his job to Tuukka Rask a year ago, Thomas has reclaimed his spot as the Bruins No. 1 goalie this year by winning nine of his first 10 decisions, while posting a miniscule 1.31 goals against average and a surreal .960 save percentage.
Thomas was not in goal back on Oct. 23 when the Rangers edged Rask and the Bruins 3-2 at TD Garden. However, Lundqvist was -- and he turned in an extremely sharp 35-save outing.
“He’s always champing at the bit to play,” Tortorella said of Lundqvist. “But I’m sure the way competes that he likes to face the best. He likes the challenge of that. Hank is a tremendous competitor.”
After tonight’s brief stop at The Garden to skate against the Bruins and to show off their new Heritage jerseys, the Rangers hit the road for a pair of back-to-back games against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night and the Minnesota Wild on Saturday evening.
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