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• Game Notes
• Rangers Get McCabe from Florida
• McCabe the Right Player in Right Deal
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
So far this season, 32 different players have played in at least one game for the Rangers -- largely because of the rash of injuries that has plagued them all year long. This afternoon, when the Rangers host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden another new player will don the Blueshirts’ Heritage jersey, as veteran defenseman Bryan McCabe makes his Broadway debut for the home team.
McCabe, 35, was acquired from the Florida Panthers on Saturday afternoon in exchange for minor-league forward Tim Kennedy and a third-round pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. He brings 15 years and 1,116 games worth of experience in the National Hockey League, and will be looked upon to provide the Rangers a steady veteran hand for their talented, yet quite young, group of defensemen.
“Bryan McCabe adds an established veteran presence to our defense corps,” said Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather after completing the trade. “Bryan also brings outstanding leadership qualities, having served a steam captain of Florida for the past two seasons.”
McCabe, who will wear No. 28, arrives in time for the stretch run, the final 19 games of the regular season, and -- as the Rangers hope and plan -- the playoffs. He has 51 games of Stanley Cup playoff experience, recording 26 points and 70 penalty minutes during his postseason career.
He will join a Rangers defense that is headed by All-Star Marc Staal and top pair-partner Dan Girardi, while also featuring a pair of talented rookies in Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh as well as the improving Matt Gilroy and Steve Eminger. Second-year pro Michael Del Zotto, 20, was returned to the Connecticut Whale following McCabe’s acquisition on Saturday.
“I think our young defensemen have handled themselves very well,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We have a very good young core. And I think they have stood in there really well to keep us competitive and in the (playoff) hunt.”
The resolve of the defense corps was put to the test in the Rangers’ most recent game on Friday night against the Capitals at the Verizon Center. Playing without Staal, the blueline leader and team alternate captain, for the first time since Feb. 17, 2008, because of a knee injury, the young defense anchored a great team effort in a 6-0 shutout of the high-powered Caps.
While pleased with all six defensemen on Friday -- a group that received a goal from Eminger and assists from Sauer, Gilroy, and Del Zotto -- Tortorella was most impressed with the continued growth of his two rookies, Sauer and McDonagh, as each played a key role -- along with Girardi -- in shutting down Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin.
“I tell ya’, I couldn’t be more excited for how they’ve played,” Tortorella said of Sauer, 23, and McDonagh, 21. “They’ve handled themselves so well, and we’re still in the (playoff) hunt even as we go through the process with them here. So I couldn’t be any happier.”
Sauer, who also got into a rousing fight with Washington’s Jason Chimera on Friday, has appeared in 57 games with the Rangers this season. He has totaled one goal and nine points to go along with 57 penalty minutes. Sauer also has a team-best plus-12 plus-minus rating.
McDonagh, who took Staal’s spot on the top defensive pair alongside Girardi in Washington, has four assists and a solid plus-7 plus/minus mark over 22 games since being recalled from the Whale.
“He’s very smart, and along with that he has the ability to skate and to make plays,” Sauer said of McDonagh. “He really uses his legs, which is key for him, and he really gets good position on guys. If you can use your feet well and be smart on top of it, like Ryan, then you’ll have success.”
The Rangers will need more solid work from their young defensemen -- as well as their new veteran acquisition -- this afternoon against the explosive Lightning, since Staal will once again be missing from the lineup. Tampa Bay, which sits atop the Southeast Division, has scored 189 goals this year, second-most in the Eastern Conference, and the Bolts’ Steven Stamkos leads the NHL with 41 goals.
Just like they did against Ovechkin and the Capitals, the Rangers will seek to neutralize Tampa Bay’s high-powered offense by scoring some goals of their own -- preferably playing with a lead after scoring first -- and showing a complete team commitment to defense.
“It’s something that everyone has to key on,” said Sauer. “The forwards need to come back and put back pressure on them, and also try to stop them in the neutral zone. Any time you see that as a D-man, it gives you confidence to step up and make a play or bang someone.”
A six-goal outburst and an early lead -- as the Rangers accomplished in Washington -- would certainly be welcome tonight, as well. The Rangers had a string of players step up offensively on Friday -- Erik Christensen had two goals and two assists, Vinny Prospal had a goal and an assist, and Brian Boyle and Derek Stepan also recorded two points. Tortorella is hoping for that to roll over into today’s contest.
“Erik wants to make a difference, and hopefully this gets him straightened out,” said Tortorella. “And no one works harder than Vinny, but it takes time coming back from a knee injury. These last two games he’s played very well which is a big boost for us.”
This afternoon’s matinee is the first of three straight home games for the Blueshirts, who will host the Sabres at The Garden on Tuesday before finishing up their homestand on Thursday against the Minnesota Wild.
|Feb 27 '11||TBL 2 at NYR 1||V. Lecavalier|
|Jan 01 '11||NYR 1 at TBL 2 - OT||N. Thompson|
|Dec 23 '10||TBL 4 at NYR 3 - SO||R. Malone|
|Nov 24 '10||NYR 3 at TBL 5||B. Clark|
|M. St. Louis||62||24||51||75||+5||8||3||5|
|M. Del Zotto||47||2||9||11||-5||20||2||0|