|ATL||0||2||1||(0 - 0)||3|
|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
When the Rangers face the Atlanta Thrashers tonight at Madison Square Garden, with the opportunity to move within one point of clinching their fifth playoff berth in the past six years, they will have to do so without one of their true heart and soul players in the lineup.
Alternate captain Ryan Callahan suffered a fractured ankle while blocking a Zdeno Chara shot during Monday night’s rousing 5-3 win over the Bruins and is sidelined indefinitely. However, he will be watching closely tonight as his teammates look to reach the brink the Eastern Conference playoffs with one regular-season game remaining.
“We’ve been battling through injuries all year, and the way we have responded to that has been great,” Callahan said following Rangers’ practice on Wednesday. “With me in or out of the lineup, the guys are going to keep playing the way we have to play and I have all the confidence in the world that we’re going to continue this run and into the playoffs.”
The gritty Rangers, who have 91 points on the season with two games yet to be played, have persevered through 318 man-games lost to injury this season -- 19 of which came when Callahan suffered a broken hand in Pittsburgh on Dec. 15.
The Blueshirts showed tremendous resolve while playing without Callahan -- one of their most indispensible players -- the first time he was hurt, and all involved believe that will be the case again tonight and into the postseason.
“It (stinks) because this is just a bad time of the year for this to happen, but it’s part of the game and it happens,” said Callahan. “The team will respond fine, and I have all the confidence in the world it will continue to play the right way and get into the playoffs.”
After missing out on a playoff berth by a single point a year ago, the Rangers have been focused on making sure they do not fall short again this season. Despite a plethora of injuries that have struck some of the biggest names on their roster -- including Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Chris Drury, Marian Gaborik, Marc Staal, Vinny Prospal, Erik Christensen, Martin Biron, Derek Boogaard, and Ruslan Fedotenko -- the Blueshirts have put themselves in position to secure a trip to the postseason over the next two games at MSG.
“We are not even thinking about playoffs or clinching,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “I mean I’d be lying if I said we don’t look at the standings and aren’t aware of what other teams are doing, but we just have to focus on playing our game and not everything surrounding whether or not we win or lose.”
Callahan, of course, has played a major role in getting the Rangers to this point. In 60 games played, he is the Blueshirts’ second leading goal scorer (23) and point producer (48), not to mention his outstanding work on the penalty kill and all the intangibles he brings to the team with his leadership and work ethic.
If anything the Rangers are even more motivated to secure a playoff berth because they want to do it for their popular alternate captain.
“He is a big part of our team, but he is one piece and we have other guys who will step it up,” said Fedotenko. “We will all do extra to help fill his spot. We can’t dwell on this. We just have to persevere and win. It’s what he would expect from us. And we owe that to ourselves and to him.”
To fill Callahan’s spot in the lineup, Tortorella has decided to dress defenseman Matt Gilroy -- who has been a healthy scratch the last six games -- as a forward. It is a position that Gilroy most recently played – apart from a few shifts in the NHL -- during his sophomore season at Boston University.
Both Gilroy and his coach are confident that the transition to forward will be a smooth one for the native of Long Island.
“It’s a pretty exciting situation we are in right now, so it’s going to be nice to be a part of it after sitting out here quite a bit,” said Gilroy, who skated with Erik Christensen and Sean Avery in practice on Wednesday. “I am not uncomfortable at all moving up. I am excited.”
Henrik Lundqvist is set to make his career-high 25th consecutive start in goal for the Rangers tonight. Over his last 14 games Lundqvist is 10-3-1 with a 2.05 goals against average, .933 save percentage, and three of his league-leading 11 shutouts.
With Biron sidelined by a fractured collarbone, Lundqvist has been the horse the Rangers have been riding on an every-game basis heading towards the playoffs.
“I think this is the highest level he has played at since I have been here,” Tortorella said of Lundqvist. “I just think he has decided to put the team on his shoulders and he just has the fight in him.”
Should the Rangers gain a point or two tonight, they might not need another win to reach the playoffs. By gaining a standings point tonight, the Blueshirts could clinch a playoff berth if Carolina loses to the Thrashers in regulation at Atlanta on Friday – the night before the Rangers close out the regular season on Saturday afternoon at MSG with a matinee against the Devils.
|Apr 07 '11||ATL 3 at NYR 0||R. Schremp|
|Feb 11 '11||NYR 2 at ATL 3||E. Kane|
|Jan 22 '11||NYR 3 at ATL 2 - SO||M. Zuccarello|
|Oct 27 '10||ATL 6 at NYR 4||D. Byfuglien|
|M. Del Zotto||47||2||9||11||-5||20||2||0|