NEWARK, N.J. -- After Brandon Dubinsky finally signed a new two-year contract with the Rangers midway through training camp last year, coach John Tortorella was asked if he expects the young Alaskan-born forward to become a goal scorer in this League.
"We're not paying him a million-eight to check," Tortorella responded.
No, they're paying him a reported $2 million this season to do just about everything -- and Dubinsky is showing that he can.
Dubinsky, who can be a restricted free agent after the season, scored two more goals in Friday's 3-0 win against the Devils on Friday night at the Prudential Center. He's tied with Steven Stamkos and Patrick Sharp for the League lead in goals with 10 through 13 games.
It's unprecedented production for Dubinsky, who had a career-high 20 goals in 69 games last season.
"It's a good feeling, but for me, I just have to stay level-headed and make sure I do all the things that have helped me score those points and those goals so far this year, which is take care of the D-zone first, be conscious of taking care of the puck, playing in a straight line and playing hard," Dubinsky said following the Rangers' seventh victory of the season and their fifth in seven games on the road.
"If you're playing on the perimeter and don't have that work ethic I don't think you're going to get rewarded as much," he added. "There have been times so far in my career where I have had some discussions about that so the biggest thing for me this year is making sure every game is the same preparation-wise and that's helping me be successful."
Dubinsky scored 7:35 into the game when he got his stick around defenseman Henrik Tallinder to shovel a shot past Devils goalie Johan Hedberg, who was starting for the injured Martin Brodeur -- out with a bruised right elbow.
Late in the second period, Dubinsky won an in-zone faceoff on a power play that led to Brian Boyle's deflection goal with 36 seconds left before intermission. And, 3:41 into the third period Dubinsky raced down the ice and darted to the net to cash in on a loose puck for his second shorthanded goal of the season.
But, it was Dubinsky's night -- just as it's been Dubinsky's year so far.
"He's doing everything for us," Tortorella said. "He's in all the situations and he's coming through not only on the scoreboard but doing all the little things too. It's been right from the beginning of the year he's stayed within himself and grinded. The success he's getting he deserves."
He's earned it because he's making the most of an opportunity that if not for injuries likely wouldn't have been there.
Without Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal in the lineup, Dubinsky has been elevated to a first-line role. He's averaging almost four minutes per game on the power play and has 6 points, including 3 goals and 3 assists. He's also making the most of his nearly three minutes per game on the penalty kill with those 2 shorthanded goals.
"Certainly the opportunity gives you confidence," Dubinsky said. "I don't know the right word to describe it, but when you're put in that situation you have to understand that it's your job to step up and provide in order for the team to be successful. When you're hungry for the team to be successful…you put a little more onus on yourself to play and perform and work hard. When you do that, good things happen. It's going well right now so I just have to continue to focus and play well."
Tortorella appreciates how Dubinsky has handled his early-season success.
"He's feeling good about himself and he's handling himself the right way, with some of the success that's coming his way," the coach said. "Obviously he's a huge part of our hockey club right now. Some of the injuries we've had have given him a great opportunity and he's certainly come through."
The Devils need someone to come through on their end despite the injuries, but they didn't get production from anybody Friday.
The Rangers, particularly the defensive pair of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, did a good job of taking away Ilya Kovalchuk's space. The $100 million left wing got so frustrated that he took a roughing penalty on Ruslan Fedotenko 15 seconds into the third period. Kovalchuk had the puck when he hit Fedotenko to draw the two-minute minor.
Kovalchuk finished the game with four shots but a minus-2 rating.
"I thought we really did a good job in closing the ice off on him," Tortorella said. "The dangerous part about him is when he retreats back. He's a smart player and he's trying to get some ice to play on, but I thought we really did a good job of reclaiming our ice and frustrated him."
But as Devils coach John MacLean said, it wasn't just Kovalchuk who couldn't get it going. The Devils had 33 shots on goal, but Lundqvist pretty much saw them all and controlled most of them.
"We're not getting the second and third chances," MacLean said. "We're getting some shots; we're just not able to get the rebounds or the bounce, the ugly goal. That's what we need right now."
The Devils have four days to figure it out. They don't play again until Wednesday at home against Buffalo, but now they're 0-5-1 at Prudential Center and 4-10-1 overall.
They hope to have Brodeur back next week, but he's not going to score.
"If it's lack of effort, at least you can point a finger at yourself or get mad about that, but it just seems we can't seem to buy a goal," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "It's getting frustrating. We all can read the standings and see where we are realize how many games we've played, how many games in hand teams have on us, and where we could be when it's all sorted out. But we can't concern ourselves so much with that. We've got to find a way to get some wins ourselves."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
|Anton Volchenkov Roughing against Sean Avery|
|David Clarkson Roughing against Brian Boyle|
|Brian Boyle Roughing against David Clarkson|
|Dainius Zubrus Hooking against Ruslan Fedotenko|
|Ilya Kovalchuk Roughing against Ruslan Fedotenko|
|Michal Rozsival Hooking against Stephen Gionta|
|David Clarkson Boarding against Brian Boyle|
|Artem Anisimov Hooking against Ilya Kovalchuk|