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• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers head into today’s matinee against the Bruins at Boston’s TD Garden having earned at least one standings point in six consecutive games. However, the club is not happy with how it earned that most recent point in Thursday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Senators, so the head coach and his players are vowing that the Rangers will put forth a much better effort this afternoon.
“We get an afternoon game right away in Boston to get back to playing right,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella following practice on Friday. “We take each game at a time, but this is a huge game against Boston. It’s a game that we really need to be there as far as how we play. I think this game lends itself to the style of play we prefer. And I’m glad it’s an afternoon game. You don’t over-coach it, you don’t have a lot of meetings. You just go out and play.”
Neither the Rangers coach nor his players believed that the team played up to par on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against an Ottawa team that sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Still, the Rangers were able to secure a crucial point in the standings when Brandon Prust scored in the third period to force overtime.
The Rangers lost in the shootout on Thursday, thus were not able to grab the second available standings point, while watching their five-game winning streak come to an end. In the end the Blueshirts felt fortunate to come away with even one point.
“I think we are relieved to have gotten a point, and it’s a huge point, no doubt,” said Prust. “But we can’t ever play like that again the rest of the year.”
As Tortorella pointed out following Thursday’s game, the Rangers have not played too many games this season that they were completely dissatisfied with their effort and performance. What he did not say, but what is the prevailing feeling in the locker room, is that the Rangers have responded in positive fashion the few times they did have such a game this year.
And that is what the Blueshirts expect from themselves this afternoon when they face a very solid Boston club that sits in third place in the Eastern Conference with 92 points after thrashing Montreal 7-0 on Thursday night.
“You’re going to have your bad games, no team in the regular season can be perfect for 82 games,” said defenseman Steve Eminger. “But it’s all about the rebound. And I think we rebound so well because we are such a hard-working team and we care so much. We are able to learn from it, work hard, and get right back at it. I love being a part of a team like this that does bounce back from adversity.”
Facing one of the top teams in the league today will also catch, and keep, the Rangers’ attention. Although not an excuse, it was clear that the Rangers did not play with the same edge against Ottawa on Thursday as they have had against playoff-bound teams like Montreal and Pittsburgh in recent games.
While the importance of each game and each pair of points up for grabs is ingrained in the players’ minds, there is no doubt that it is much easier to “get up” for a quality Bruins team today than it is for the Senators.
“Unfortunately there is a different vibe playing a playoff team as opposed to a team in last place,” said Prust. “It (stinks) to use that excuse, though, because we are all professional athletes and we have to show up every game no matter who we are playing. The sign of a good team, though, is the ability to bounce back when we all recognize that we weren’t good the game before. We’ve done a good job most of the season in doing that. And I’m sure we’re going to do it again (Saturday).”
Tortorella was not sure what his lineup would look like this afternoon, although it is a given that Henrik Lundqvist will make his 20th consecutive start in goal and that All Star defenseman Marc Staal -- who returned to the lineup Thursday after missing two games with an undisclosed injury -- is healthy enough to play again.
“(Thursday’s) game is over with and we have moved on from it,” said Staal. “You learn from it, take the point, and move on to the next one. And it’s going to be a big test for us (Saturday).”
This afternoon’s contest is the start of four straight on the road for the Rangers. They will play back-to-back road contests in Buffalo and Long Island on Wednesday and Thursday, and then play their final road game of the regular season next Sunday afternoon at Philadelphia.
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