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• Game Notes
• McDonagh Makes His NHL Debut Tonight
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Having reached the official midway point of the 2010-11 season with Wednesday’s dramatic 2-1 overtime victory over Carolina, the Rangers embark on the season’s second half tonight when they open up a two-game road swing with a contest against the Dallas Stars.
And as Wednesday’s game proved, the Rangers do not expect any easy games the rest of the year, beginning with an anticipated tough match this evening against a very talented Stars team.
“This is a tough trip,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of the games in Dallas tonight and St. Louis on Saturday. “Starting with Dallas, they are a good team and have been consistent all the way through. So we just have to stay with it and play the game that we feel we have to play in order to be successful.”
That is precisely what the Rangers did in their victory on Wednesday. Playing one of their best and most complete games in some time, the Rangers secured an important two points against a conference rival on Mats Zuccarello’s overtime goal -- his first-ever goal in the National Hockey League.
“It was a good team game by us,” Tortorella said after the team practiced at Dallas on Thursday. “It was the game we needed to get back to. And that was what was key. The players know how we have to be to be successful. In a long year you go through some ebbs and flows, but it was important for us to get right back at it the right way. And I thought through the whole lineup everyone did.”
The Rangers certainly regained their identity as an extremely ferocious forechecking team as wave-after-wave of line combinations hammered away at the Hurricanes deep in the offensive zone. And the fact that both goals the team scored originated off of a successful forecheck and strong work behind Carolina’s net is testament to the Rangers’ commitment to the game plan.
Brandon Dubinsky led the way in this department, assisting on both goals, as he upped his team-leading points total to 34 on the season. Zuccarello also assisted on Matt Gilroy’s, goal and the likes of Sean Avery, Ruslan Fedotenko, Brian Boyle, Marian Gaborik, and others all contributed with strong diligent work in the offensive zone.
“We always talk about playing good defense and then being hard, in their face, offensively,” said defenseman Michal Rozsival. “And I think (Wednesday) night we got that effort from everybody. We’ve had a tough time recently scoring goals, but the good thing is we still found a way to win the game. It’s all about winning, and we found a way on (Wednesday) night.”
The one downer from the victory over Carolina was the fact that Rozsival was forced out of the game in the second period. Rozsival had pain in his ribcage area prior to the game and then hurt it even more while taking a Hurricanes forward out of a play on Wednesday.
Rozsival left the game and did not return. He did not practice on Wednesday, and instead received treatment from the team’s training staff. Rozsival said he plans to take part in the morning skate today and then decide if he can play tonight.
If Rozsival is unable to play, rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh would make his NHL debut after being scratched on Wednesday. And should that be the case, Rozsival is confident the team would react in fine manner just as it has done when facing adversity all season long.
“It’s huge that we get contributions from everyone,” said Rozsival. “We don’t care how we win, we just want to win. If we have a different hero every night, that’s fine.”
Rugged forward Brandon Prust also did not practice on Thursday, although Tortorella referred to it as a “maintenance day” for Prust who has had a sore left shoulder much of the season.
That sore shoulder did not stop Prust from fighting the much bigger Troy Bodie on Wednesday, which did not surprise his head coach in the least.
“That’s who he is,” Tortorella said of Prust. “And that’s part of his importance to the team.”
Through 41 games, the Dallas Stars have 52 points, tops in the Pacific Division and third overall in the Western Conference. That total is three points more than the Rangers, who enter play today sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand over sixth-place Atlanta team that they can pass tonight if the Thrashers lose to Toronto.
This only meeting of the season between the Rangers and Dallas shapes up as a stiff test for the visitors tonight.
“We have to stay consistent with what we did the other night,” said Tortorella. “That’s the key for any team, you have to remain consistent with who you are. And we will look to do that (tonight).”
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