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• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Coming off a convincing 4-1 victory over the Senators at Ottawa on Friday, the Rangers look to bring some of their road magic back home this afternoon when they host the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers are 3-3-0 in their last six games, winning their last three road games and losing their last three played at The Garden. Friday’s win in Ottawa was the 20th on the road this season for the Rangers, who are just 14-16-3 on home ice.
“We played really well on the road (Friday), now we have to go home and meet the challenge of Philly,” said alternate captain Ryan Callahan. “These are all playoff games right now. We need wins because where we are in the standings, every game is a must-win for us.”
Friday’s victory vaulted the Rangers past the Hurricanes into seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have 72 points, one better than eighth-place Carolina, heading into play today.
“This is a great challenge for us,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who earned his 26th win of the season on Friday. “We should be excited by the challenge and embrace it. We’ve been doing a lot of good things lately. The difference (on Friday) was that we scored that timely goal, and got that timely save, and the bounces went our way. We haven’t been that far off our game, but we need to be better at home.”
The last time the Rangers won on home ice was Feb. 17 when they knocked off the Los Angeles Kings in a shootout 4-3. In their last nine games at The Garden, the Rangers are just 2-6-1.
Whether at home or on the road Rangers head coach John Tortorella believes that the team’s overall strategy and effort must remain consistent in order to achieve the desired results.
“We’ve talked about breaks, good luck, bad luck, but the bottom line is we are going to stay with it, defend first as we have all year and continue to bang away at it,” said Tortorella. “The biggest thing for us is not even to think about scoring goals because it’s about playing defense first, and hopefully things will fall into order.”
Scoring goals, of course, is vital to winning games, and the Rangers not only scored four times on Friday, they scored the first four goals of the game, burying the Senators instead of being engaged in another one-goal contest.
Getting off to better starts in games -- and securing early leads -- has been emphasized time and again of late by the Rangers players and coaches, and would be welcome this afternoon against the Flyers.
“It’s not just getting the first goal,” said Callahan. “It’s playing the right way, getting the lead, then continuing to play the right way and build upon the lead. That’s what we need to do.”
There is the chance that the Rangers’ lineup might receive a boost from Marian Gaborik this afternoon. Gaborik, who has missed the last six games due to a concussion, has skated four days in a row and also traveled with the team back and forth to Ottawa without issue.
A decision on Gaborik’s playing status will be made prior to the game today.
“It’s been frustrating, but I am trying to be positive,” said Gaborik. “I try to think to myself ‘just let it go’. I am trying to let go of anything that is not positive because it is important to remain that way.”
Tortorella will also have to make a game-time decision on rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who missed Friday’s game after injuring his knee in Thursday night’s loss to the Minnesota Wild.
Tortorella said on Friday that McDonagh was “much better than expected”, and listed his status as “day-to-day”.
In McDonagh’s place on Friday veteran Steve Eminger stepped into the lineup, recorded an assist, and posted a plus-minus rating of plus-3 while playing in his 400th NHL game. With recent injuries to Marc Staal and McDonagh, Eminger has played in four of the last five games and has produced two points (1-1-2) and a plus-5 rating.
In the Flyers the Rangers face a team they have yet to beat this season. The Blueshirts are 0-4-0 vs. the Flyers, having been beaten twice already at both The Garden and in Philadelphia. The Rangers have been outscored 15-6 by Philly so far this season.
However the Flyers, who sit atop the Eastern Conference with 86 points have lost three games in a row, after bowing to the Sabres 5-3 on home ice on Saturday afternoon.
“I think we all have been playing well lately, but we need some puck luck, too,” said Lundqvist. “Hopefully that luck turns around for us because I like the way the guys have been playing.”
Following today’s game the Rangers head to the West Coast for the next week, playing games in Anaheim against the Ducks on Wednesday and in San Jose against the surging Sharks on Saturday. The Blueshirts will return to MSG on March 15 for their next home game against the Islanders.
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