NEWARK, N.J. -- The Montreal Canadiens have lost four of five -- all in regulation -- since clinching a berth in Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 11. They will begin a season-closing three-game road trip against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night and will enter the contest with one lineup change.
Forward Colby Armstrong, out since April 1 with a knee injury, will take the spot of Travis Moen on the Canadiens' fourth line. Moen signed a four-year contract with the club over the summer and has played in 44 of 45 games this season, but will be a healthy scratch against the Devils.
"Colby's an important guy," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "I've always believed in good team chemistry. He's good with the players. He knows the system really well. He's good killing penalties. Guys have different roles on a team when we have success. All the roles, as far as I'm concerned, are important. Colby has an important role on our club."
One look at the likely lineups for the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers heading into their matchup Sunday at Madison Square Garden shows how things are going for each team.
The Capitals are coming off two straight road wins against the Winnipeg Jets -- 4-0 on Thursday and 6-1 on Friday -- and won’t make any lineup changes.
The Rangers, however, made two moves in the wake of their 3-1 home loss Thursday to the Florida Panthers, the NHL's 30th-place team. Fourth-line center Jeff Halpern was placed on waivers and claimed by the Montreal Canadiens, and Stu Bickel, who has split time on defense and at forward, also was placed on waivers.
Forward Kris Newbury was recalled from Connecticut of the American Hockey League and could find himself on a line with Chris Kreider, as the two worked well together during their time together with the Whale. Arron Asham is healed from a back injury that has sidelined him for more than a month and could be back against the Capitals.
NEW YORK -- At the start of the season, New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider was considered one of the favorites to win the Calder Trophy after bursting onto the scene during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kreider was instead assigned to Connecticut of the AHL after his minutes began to diminish from poor play and then an ankle injury hindered his progress. But after a little more than three weeks with the Whale, the 21-year-old will find himself on the Rangers' third line when they play host to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
“I was able to play big minutes and play in all situations," Kreider told reporters of his AHL stint, following the Rangers' practice at Greenburgh, N.Y. "Any time you can do that, it helps your development, I guess.”
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who complained of headaches following a 3-2 against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday stemming from a collision with teammate Dan Girardi, said he feels good after taking off Wednesday and will start in net. He'll likely be opposed by Florida's Jacob Markstrom, who is coming off a 33-save performance in a 4-1 win at Carolina on Tuesday.
Mired in a three-game losing streak in which they have scored only two goals, the New York Rangers appear set to reunite their three biggest guns on one line Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
According to reporters in attendance in Greenburgh, N.Y., Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash skated together on a line at practice. It was a common sight during the first two weeks of the season, but the unit eventually was broken up in an effort to give the team a more balanced look offensively.
Nash has been a consistent performer all season -- he has 9 goals and 23 points in 23 games -- but Richards and Gaborik have been mired in slumps since the season's early stages. Richards has two goals and six assists in his past 20 games, while Gaborik has three goals and six assists in his past 22 games, and just one goal in his past 14 games.
Richards returned to that game but had yet to practice since the hit that earned Kaleta a five-game suspension.
Richards tried to participate in the Rangers' morning skate Tuesday, but left the ice immediately. Rangers coach John Tortorella said Richards skated Friday afternoon to test his injuries and felt good enough to play.
The Rangers face the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. ET.
Bishop has gotten the bulk of the work since Anderson hurt his ankle against the Rangers on Feb. 21 and allowed seven goals in his next four starts. However, he gave up five goals on 28 shots against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old has yet to win in two starts, but not for his lack of stellar goaltending. He stopped 44 of 46 shots Feb. 28 against the Boston Bruins, but lost 2-1 in overtime. Sunday, Lehner made 33 saves but lost 3-2 in a shootout.
Lehner is hoping to face Henrik Lundqvist, who started for the Rangers on Thursday and made 28 saves in a 2-1 overtime win. If they decide to give Lundqvist a second straight start, it would mean Lehner would get to face his fellow Swedish countryman and mentor.
NEW YORK -- It's been a struggle since the puck was dropped on the 2012-13 season for the Philadelphia Flyers. A 100-point team the past two seasons, injuries and inconsistency have combined to prevent the Flyers from spending even a day above .500 this season.
The Flyers will become one of two teams to reach the midpoint of their season Tuesday by playing their 24th game, and they will do so in an important Atlantic Division battle against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).
After an 0-3-0 start that continued into a 2-6-0 mark, the Flyers are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference at 11-11-1, one point ahead of the ninth-place Rangers. The Flyers' position is deceiving, however, because they've played the most games in the League and rank 19th overall and tied for ninth in the East with the Winnipeg Jets in points percentage.
If the Flyers lose in regulation Tuesday, they will find themselves one point behind the Rangers, who will have three games in hand. The Flyers could fall as far as 10th in the East with a regulation loss.
Flyers forward Maxime Talbot called this game the biggest of the season.
"We battled through a lot of adversity this year and we're just coming up to .500 after the start we had. It's where we want to be right now," Talbot said. "But now it's about moving up and keep going. Yeah, we have to go through this game to keep building and keep gaining points, so I'd say, yeah, to this day, it's our most important game."
Vanek was absent from the Sabres' 4-3 shootout victory against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, and the team hoped he'd able to face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Rolston said Vanek is close but just not ready.
"We're hoping [for Tuesday at the Carolina Hurricanes]," Rolston said. "For his best interest and the best interest of the team, we decided to hold him out [Sunday]. He won't be able to go, but we're very hopeful he'll be able to go on Tuesday."
Lindback hasn't played since Sunday, when he allowed three goals on 10 shots against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 5-3 Lightning loss. He was pulled after the first period of that game, and he was the last player to come off the ice at Thursday's morning skate.
"Every game he's in, he gives us a chance to win," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of Garon, who has stopped 61 of 66 shots (.924 save percentage) in his past three games. "He plays very calm for me, that's what I see. There's not a lot of big rebounds for the other team to capitalize on. He's been very good."
"He's in the game," said Jets coach Claude Noel, whose team will look to finish its five-game road trip with a 4-1 record when they face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. "He's a player. He's ready to go. He feels good. He's a big contributor to our team and he's played with a little bit more control of late, and that's something we're trying to sort through. But that's OK."
Byfuglien suffered a lower-body injury in the third period of the Jets' 4-2 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday. But the 6-foot-5, 265-pound defenseman/forward took part in the team's Tuesday morning skate at MSG and looked completely healthy.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils are entering into a unique situation starting Thursday, playing consecutive regular-season games on the road against the same team.
Outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, players can't recall a similar situation since their days of playing junior hockey, but that's what they'll do against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night and Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center.
"It is a little different," said Devils forward David Clarkson, who will be in the lineup Thursday after dealing with tightness in his back following Monday afternoon's 2-1 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators. "But I think with the schedule a lot of things are going to happen that you're not used to, so I think it'll be nice to get there and play tomorrow, have the day to practice and have no travel, so that will be good."
Carter was involved in a collision during Monday afternoon's home game with the Ottawa Senators that left him with a head injury. He won't be available in either of the next two games; the team will not return home on the day in between the two games in Washington.
NEW YORK – When Brandon Prust joined the New York Rangers from the Calgary Flames in January 2010, he wasn’t much more than a player who would drop the gloves and spend most of a game glued to the bench in a strict enforcer role.
That changed under Rangers coach John Tortorella, who employed him as a checking-line wingr and penalty-killing specialist. Prust also fought more than anyone in the NHL last season, and it resulted in him being rewarded with a four-year, $10 million contract by the Montreal Canadiens in July.
Prust wasn’t looking to leave as a free agent, but the Canadiens made an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“Well, to have some teams come at you like Montreal did, it’s definitely flattering, and I think it was good for me to also set a precedent for players like me and how important we can be to teams.” Prust told reporters at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night with the Canadiens paying a visit to the Rangers. “That was something I was happy to do as well, you know? Sometimes players like me are maybe overlooked or not looked at as an important piece to the puzzle, but it was something I wanted to prove and wanted to show."
"He's banged up," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We're going to see if he can go."
Nash did not take part in Rangers' practice Saturday, although the day off was characterized as a maintenance day by Tortorella at that time. Later Saturday, the Rangers recalled forward Chris Kreider from Connecticut of the AHL one day after he was assigned to the Whale.
NEW YORK - The Capitals enter Sunday's game on a three-game winningstreak. This will be the first meeting between the Caps and Rangers since their Eastern Conference Semifinal series last year, which the Rangers won in seven games.
That marked the end of coach Dale Hunter's tenure and set the stage for the hiring of Adam Oates during the offseason. How does Alex Ovechkin think the change in coaching philosophies from Hunter's defense-first mentality to Oates' more-aggressive style will affect a meeting with the Rangers?
"I'm probably going to get more ice time," said Ovechkin, who played fewer than 15 minutes three times in that series.
The Rangers did not have a skate Sunday, so the status ofRick Nash remains in doubt. Coach John Tortorella will address the media at 4:45 p.m.
Here's what Oates will likely throw at the Rangers in terms of line combinations and d-pairs, with Braden Holtby getting the start in net.
Green left practice early Saturday with a lower-body injury and did not partake in Sunday's optional morning skate. Capitals coach Adam Oates said he doesn't expect Green to miss more than one game and Tom Poti will slot into his spot in the lineup.
"I think he's our best D but will see how it goes," Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. "It's going to hurt us, but we're going to have to different guys on the PP and different guys are going to have more ice time."
Green leads the Capitals in time on ice at 26:33 per game, which is sixth in the NHL, and 4:43 per game of power-play time. He also leads the team's defensemen in scoring with 2 goals and 7 points in 11 games.
Tortorella was frank about the play of his two of his biggest stars this season, especially the skating of Gaborik.
"He needs to help them get the puck because I don't think those two guys are doing a good enough job getting the puck," Tortorella said. "It certainly doesn't take the onus off of them, but I just want to see what that looks like.
"They need to play better."
Tortorella said he didn't like Callahan with Richards last season, but the two played together for a lengthy stretch in 2011-12. In Gaborik's case, Tortorella wants to see him emulate another speedy winger on his club - Carl Hagelin.
"It's a huge part of his game," Tortorella said of Gaborik's speed. "You look at Hagelin. He's second on our team - we keep this stat offensively and defensively and you have a plus/minus, basically (with scoring chances for and against) - he's second behind [Rick] Nash as far as his plus/minus. Hags is at like plus-27, Nash is at plus-31, and Hags hasn't made a whole lot of passes. I'm not criticizing him -- he's done it with his legs. He creates havoc with his legs.
"I just don't understand why Gabby can't do that. I know they're a little different-type players. But Gabby needs to bring that into his game. And he will."
It should also be noted that Tortorella referred to Derek Stepan as the team's first-line center, and his 25:14 of ice time in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout victory in Boston backs up that sentiment; Richards played 19:19.
Tortorella also said making Chris Kreider a healthy scratch and bringing Brian Boyle back into the lineup after sitting him for three games wasn't because Kreider played poorly, but he hadn't done enough good things of late. Rookie J.T. Miller will be moved to the wing with Boyle centering the third line in an effort to lessen the responsibilities on the 19-year-old in his own zone.
Here's what the Rangers' lines will look like as they go for their fourth win in a row.
Henrik Lundqvist was the first goaltender to leave the ice, a sure sign he will make his 10th start in 11 games. Backup Martin Biron's only start of the season came against the Lightning on Feb. 2, when he made 30 saves in a 3-2 victory.
On the Lightning side of gameday activities, they arrived at their team hotel late Saturday night after taking a bus from Boston following the cancellation of their game against the Bruins. They did not have a morning skate -- the New York Knicks are hosting the Los Angeles Clippers this afternoon -- but held a team meeting at their hotel.
Here are the projected lineups for Sunday's game, although the Lightning lines and d-pairs are pure guesswork, as they dressed seven defensemen against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday but that may not be the case Sunday.
Note:Dana Tyrell cleared waivers Sunday and the Lightning recalled Killorn to take his roster spot. Killorn, 23, would make his NHL debut after putting up 16 goals and 22 assists in 44 games with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL.
The Rangers captain suffered the injury during a tussle with Philadelphia Flyers forward Max Talbot on Jan. 29. Doctors told Callahan the following day he would miss 10-14 days with the injury, but he is making his return nine days after the prognosis.
During Thursday’s pregame warmups before facing the Islanders at Madison Square Garden, Callahan skated on the Rangers’ third line with rookies Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller.
Ryan Callahan was expected to miss 10-14 days with a shoulder injury, but it appears he’ll be back in the New York Rangers' lineup after just nine days.
The team’s captain was on the ice in Greenburgh, N.Y., Thursday morning as a full participant when the Rangers prepared to face the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden.
The outlook seems less promising for defenseman Dan Girardi, who was an unexpected scratch Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils with an undisclosed injury. Girardi left practice early and along with Callahan, didn’t speak to the media afterward.
Rangers coach John Tortorella will address reporters about an hour before the game at MSG.
Rangers coach John Tortorella has tapped Martin Biron to make his first start of the year, while Lightning coach Guy Boucher is expected to let Mathieu Garon start the second half of the team's back-to-back weekend set.
This will be Biron's first start of the season in place of Henrik Lundqvist, who started the team's first seven games.
“We have a philosophy about playing goaltenders and we’ll stick to it,” Tortorella said. “We felt really comfortable how we used our goalies last year and we didn’t stray from that. We’ll do the same this year. We have two good ones.”
The Lightning lead the NHL in goals scored with 37. That total easily exceeds the combined efforts of the Nashville Predators and the Los Angeles Kings, who have scored 12 goals each.
After scoring three power-play goals on Friday night against Winnipeg, the Lightning have now scored 11 times out of 26 extra-man opportunities on home ice, good for a 42.3-percent success rate.
Callahan suffered a subluxation of his left shoulder when he and Philadelphia Flyers forward Max Talbot scuffled early in the third period of Tuesday night's game. An MRI confirmed the injury, but Callahan is expected to be back in 10-14 days, which is about 5-7 games.
Considering the worst-case scenario, a maximum of two weeks without their most complete forward seems like good news for the Rangers. Coach John Tortorella, however, didn't see the silver lining in the prognosis.
"I don't want to lose Cally for a day," Tortorella said.
Callahan spoke with reporters Thursday morning and lamented what was essentially an unlucky injury.
"It's tough any time you miss time, especially in a shortened season like this. It's hard," Callahan said. "I wish I was out there. At the same time, injuries happen during the year, and these things are going to happen and it's just a matter of getting back as you as you can. The first days [of rehab] are trying to get it to settle down, the inflammation and things like that. After that, I'll start to be able to strengthen it. Hopefully, they're saying two weeks, 10 to 14 days and I'll be back at it."
The Rangers have been thin at forward this season, and the loss of Callahan only amplifies the problem. For Thursday's game against the Penguins, Tortorella will use defenseman Stu Bickel as a fourth-line forward; blueliner Matt Gilroy will make his season debut in his second go-round with the Rangers.
The line shuffling will likely be fluid throughout the game, but this is what the Rangers should employ at the start of Thursday's game:
It will be interesting to see who patrols the front of the net in place of Callahan when the Rangers find themselves on the power play. Taylor Pyatt has spent some time there on the second power-play unit, so it could be him and Brian Boyle trying to obstruct the view of Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun.
With Kunitz absent, Tangradi was the net-front presence on the team's power play during practice. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound forward doesn't have a goal in five games this season, but standing around the crease with the likes of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice could help him break out of his slump.
"It’s going to be tough for the goalie to see around him and for the defensemen to move him," Crosby said. "He's got good hands in tight. If he's got rebound opportunities, he's going to be able to put them in. I think he's someone used to playing there; he's played there with us before. He should be pretty comfortable."
Tangradi doesn't care how the puck goes into the net.
"I feel like I've gained confidence from the way I've played, be it the beginning of this year or last year," Tangradi said. "Just to have one find the back of the net would definitely be encouraging. I've had a lot of quality chances and just haven't really found the back of the net. It definitely would kick-start something for me if I was to find the back of the net."
The Penguins' power play, despite ranking 11th in the NHL at 22.7 percent, has gone 1-for-14 in the last two games since starting the season 4-for-8 in wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.
Bylsma believes despite the funk, it's nothing to get worked up about this early in the season even with the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang and James Neal on the ice at the same time.
"Great power plays fail 75 percent of the time," Bylsma said. "So I think if people expect that every time they get on the ice something magical is going to happen, that it's going to go in the net, it's a false assumption. It's not true. They have been part of a very good power play, but it doesn't mean we score every time."
Bylsma announced that Tomas Vokoun will make his third start of the season and second against the Rangers. On Jan. 20 at Madison Square Garden, Vokoun made 31 saves in a 6-3 victory.
Here are the lines and defense pairings the Penguins showed at practice with Kunitz not taking part.
“There’s no one thing,” Laviolette said. “There’s a whole bunch of things. I think collectively as a group, we weren’t sharp. I make no excuses for it. We didn’t play well enough. There is no one answer. I could give you different answers but instead of reciting them all, I think we’ll just work on them on the iced and try to be a better group.”
The Flyers will have a chance to bounce back after a day off Monday when they face the New York Rangers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Laviolette said he felt his team had played three good games in a row before the loss in Tampa, and that stretch included a 2-1 win against the Rangers in Philadelphia on Thursday.
The common thread in the Flyers’ four losses this season has been poor special teams and to some extent, far too many unnecessary penalties.
In their two wins, the Flyers are 3-for-10 on the power play and 7-for-8 on the penalty kill; in their four losses, they are 1-for-21 on the power play and have allowed eight power-play goals in 21 shorthanded chances.
The Flyers have also been outscored 10-2 and are 0-2 in the second half of back-to-backs this season.
“It seems penalties is one of the issues,” Flyers forward Danny Briere said. “Two were bad losses we didn’t play well in and in both cases it was the second game of a back-to-back and it’s an area we’ll have to improve. Everybody has to play the back-to-back games. We’ll have to better there.”
Briere said while his wrist is healthy enough to play against the Rangers, he isn’t ready to take faceoffs just yet.
Laviolette was secretive about his lineup, but here are the lines he showed during practice:
Lilja would not say, but he appears to be checking into the lineup in place of Kurtis Foster. As for the fourth line, Rinaldo also didn’t confirm if he would replace Tye McGinn. It will likely be a game-time decision, as Rinaldo is coming off a leg injury.
Kreider was a healthy scratch for the Rangers’ 2-1 road loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, but was absent from the team’s practice Saturday morning with the injury. Tortorella said Kreider suffered in the injury during his time with Connecticut of the American Hockey League.
"I don’t know exactly what it is,' Tortorella said. "But it's not a serious injury. He'll get a couple days rest and we’ll see what happens from there."
The Rangers face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night and are scheduled to face the Flyers at home on Tuesday night.
Reimer took part in the team’s morning skate that day, but was scratched with what was believed to be whiplash issues before later being diagnosed with a concussion near the end of the season. The Maple Leafs recalled Ben Scrivens to back up Jonas Gustavsson for that contest and Reimer didn’t see the ice again until early December.
More than a year later, Reimer will likely get a chance to make his Madison Square Garden debut against the Rangers on Saturday night. Reimer was the first goaltender off the ice at practice while Scrivens stayed longer for extra work.
Reimer was expected to be the No. 1 goaltender in Toronto this season, but rumors swirled that the Leafs would acquire Roberto Luongo from the Vancouver Canucks. That trade wasn't consummated by the start of this season and Scrivens was given the Leafs’ first two starts. Four games into the 2012-13 campaign, he has made three starts compared to just one for Reimer.
Coach John Tortorella announced that defenseman Stu Bickel will move into Asham’s position up front and Steve Eminger will make his season debut on the blue line.
Asham suffered the injury during the Rangers' 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night. Asham fought Tanner Glass two seconds after the opening faceoff and played just 5:53. Tortorella said Asham did not suffer the injury during the fight.
The Bruins (2-0) will look for their second win in three games against the New York Rangers (0-2) at Madison Square Garden (7:30 ET, NBCSN).
"They're out there this morning. I'm going to leave it as a game-time decision," said Julien, who wasn't on the ice for the skate. "I'm very hopeful for both of them. But I'll see after this morning's skate and after warmup, it'll be better to make those decisions then."
Lundqvist played well in a 3-1 loss Saturday night to the Bruins in Boston, making 31 saves.
The only lineup change Sunday for the Rangers will be the return of Arron Asham from a four-game suspension he incurred as a member of the Penguins during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last year against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Asham signed with the Rangers during the offseason in part to replace the loss of enforcer Brandon Prust to the Montreal Canadiens via free agency. The 34-year-old Asham isn’t shy about dropping the gloves and the occasional borderline hit, but Rangers coach John Tortorella doesn’t want to rein him in for his debut.
“I don’t expect him to be a saint,” Tortorella said. “The way he plays, I want him to be himself. I think you can play the game hard – and we have done that – without taking penalties.”
To make room for Asham, the Rangers sent forward Brandon Segal to Connecticut of the AHL. He had two penalty minutes (hooking) in 5:21 of ice time against the Bruins.
Here are the likely lines and d-pairs for the Rangers:
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Rick Nash
Marian Gaborik - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Chris Kreider - Bryan Boyle - Taylor Pyatt
Mike Rupp - Jeff Halpern - Arron Asham
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel
NEW YORK –Tomas Vokoun joined the Capitals last season as the goaltender that would shore up the position, one that had been a weakness for years in Washington, and transform the club from playoff disappointments into Stanley Cup champions.
Instead, Vokoun battled injury and inconsistency and eventually found himself watching from afar with a lower-body injury as the Capitals lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the New York Rangers in seven games.
The 36-year-old will get a crack at the Rangers on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden in his first start with the Pittsburgh Penguins after signing a two-year deal to serve as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup.
“I think when we talk about our goaltenders and adding a Tomas Vokoun, this is one of the reasons why right here in back-to-back situations,” said coach Dan Bylsma, whose team won its season opener 2-1 in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. “He’s got a big game against the Rangers. This is a team that we think is a great team and a big game for us and Tomas is stepping right in Game 2 to backstop us.”
Vokoun’s last start came nearly 10 months ago when he allowed three goals on 28 shots in a 3-2 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg on March 16, 2012.
“It’s a good chance to get in there after a long time,” Vokoun said. “Hopefully I can help the team win. I’m very excited. That’s why we do all the training and everything else, to be able to play the game. Obviously it’s my first time in the uniform so it’s always exciting.”
Vokoun faced the Rangers once last year and played very well. He stopped 31 of 32 shots in a 4-1 win for the Capitals at Verizon Center.
“I’m happy for a new teammate getting his first chance,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “It’s always a great atmosphere here and we’re excited for him to get out there. We want to make sure we give him as much help as we can.”
Here are the lines and defense pairings that were on display during the Penguins’ morning practice:
STIRLING-RAWDON, Ontario – The Kraft Hockeyville celebration was only getting warmed up Sunday.
The festivities will continue Monday and Tuesday with skating clinics that will take place from 5:00-7:45 p.m. at the Sterling & District Recreation Centre. They will consist of three, 45-minute sessions and while the participants have already been chosen, they will be open for public viewing.
The clinics will feature children from ages 4-16 whose names were selected at random.
STIRLING-RAWDON, Ontario -- Former NHL players Brad Marsh, Laurie Boschman, Mike Gaul and Jamie Allison signed autographs during the Fun Fair event in the parking lot outside the Stirling & District Recreation Centre on Sunday afternoon.
The festivities included the presentation of a $100,000 check for upgrades and renovations to the Stirling & District Recreation Centre and a $10,000 food bank donation. The Stanley Cup was on display for photographs, while fun for the kids included two bouncy castles, an accuracy game for shooting hockey balls, a slide and free Kraft products for everyone.
The musical stylings of Brian Cosbey and Friends filled the air on an afternoon in which potential rain stayed away.
"It's been a good experience for us," said Cindy Brandy, the chairperson who made the push to bring Hockeyville to the town. "I think this past week, with all the advertisement on the radio and the television stations, things improved dramatically. Hence, the crowd today."
A few thousand people are here today with the alumni game set for 7 p.m. at the recreation centre.
STIRLING-RAWDON, Ontario -- Hockey's most famous celebrity was on display during a parade through the center of town Sunday morning -- the Stanley Cup.
Fans of all ages lined Front Street for the 30-minute precession that was part of the town's celebration for winning the Kraft Hockeyville competition. It's tough to explain exactly what took place during the parade, so here's a rundown of some its participants.
-- A marching band
-- A fire truck
-- About 100 kids from the town's minor hockey program
-- Five John Deere tractors
-- A blues band, since the town's hockey team's nickname is the Blues
-- "The Stirling Blues Brothers," two gentlemen dressed as Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi's "Blues Brothers" characters
-- A teenage boy wearing a clown wig and Alexander Mogilny Maple Leafs jersey who was pulled along by a pony
-- A man who goes by the name "Canadian Bob," who was dressed in red on a motorcycle decorated with Canadian flags and had a black Labrador in a basket resting above the back wheel
And of course, the Stanley Cup, which was the big draw for people gathered to watch the parade.
"It's pretty cool," said Todd Binnie, who was resting comfortable in a chair in his front lawn while wearing a Philadelphia Flyers jersey. "It's a small town so we don't get to see that type of stuff too often."
STIRLING-RAWDON, Ontario -- A group of about 30 girls took the ice for a figure-skating clinic at the Stirling & District Recreation Centre on Sunday morning to kick off the town's Kraft Hockeyville celebration.
Canadian Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth Manley served as the instructor for the pair of 45-minute sessions. Nine-year-old Madison Myers took part as a student while her older sister Lindsay Newbury-Myers assisted Manley.
"Liz is just great to have out hear teaching these kids because she works so well with them," said Nick Myers, the proud father who was looking on with his wife, Laurie. The duo will serve as linesmen for tonight's alumni game that will feature Stirling native Rob Ray, Brad Marsh, Laurie Boschman and other former NHL players.
Nick credited the sister of Ray, Cindy Brand, the chairperson for the town's campaign, for making figure skating part of the festivities.
"I'm very grateful to her for getting the ball rolling on getting figure skaters involved," Nick said. "The support from everyone has been amazing."
There will be more clinics Monday and Tuesday with some of the NHL alumni taking part as instructors.
LONDON, Ontario -- After a sleepy morning at his parents' home, Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter brought the Stanley Cup out for a brief tour of the city after making a public appearance Thursday.
About 100 employees at EllisDon, where Jeff's mom Sue works, lined up for pictures with Jeff and the Cup on a sweltering hot day. The Clarence Campbell Bowl was also on hand for the festivities.
The only other public stop before a private party at an uncle's house was Stronach Arena, where Carter played his first hockey as a 7-year-old. The ice was replaced with a sport court for summertime ball hockey, so the Cup was set at "centre ice" for some fun pictures.
Carter posed for shots in almost every jersey he's ever worn -- including one he wore when he was 7 that wasn't as ill-fitting as you'd think. Some children passing by saw the Cup and got some unexpected shots with it too.
LONDON, Ont. -- The handoff of the Stanley Cup between London boys and Los Angeles Kings teamates Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter took place at about 8:30 a.m. this morning, with the Hall of Fame's Mike Bolt driving the Cup across town to Carter's parents' house.
Carter has nothing public planned with the Cup today. He and Doughty shared the spotlight Thursday at a ceremony at City Hall and John Labatt Center, home of the London Knights.
Friends, family and Carter's billet family from his time at Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL are enjoying a quiet party in the back yard. The Cup will make a trip to the workplace of Jeff's mom, Sue, and make another trip the home of Jeff's uncle for a private get together.
There will also be a stop at Stronach Arena, where Jeff played as kid.
LONDON, Ont. -- The final leg of Drew Doughty's tour took him to his parents home on the other side of town and was a walk down memory lane.
Doughty hopped into his old bed with the Cup. He posed for photos in the bed that features a Los Angeles Kings pillow case and sits next to a nightstand that had a phone with a Kings logo on it.
As if that wasn't enough, Doughty's two jerseys from his days as a small child hung on a dresser -- one of Kelly Hrudey and one of Wayne Gretzky.
Doughty took the Cup into the back yard for more pictures with family members, only this time the Cup had Doughty's gold medal from the 2010 Olympics draped around its neck.
The family took the Cup to its final stop in town -- Forest City National Golf Course. The Cup sat in the clubhouse for two hours for pictures while Doughty signed autographs and posed for pictures of his own.
After that, it was back to Doughty's residence for a private party. More to come later on Doughty's day, including stories from his billet parents and how his grandparents made his career possible.
LONDON, Ont. -- Once family time concluded, Drew Doughty shared the Cup with his neighbors. Kids and adults alike took photos in a nearby park and signed autographs as well.
From there, Doughty and his family boarded a bus for city hall, where the town's mayor honored them with a plaque in the shape of the city's emblem. Jeff Carter, also a London native who will have his own day with the Cup on Friday, joined the party with his family.
Doughty and Carter proceeded to climb atop a police rescue vehicle with the Cup and led a small procession to the Joseph Labatt Center, home of the OHL's London Knights.
The Cup was put on display at center ice for the 1,000 or so fans who attended while Carter and Doughty toured the arena and locker room.
There are a few more stops left on a day that's expected to conclude at about 4 p.m.
LONDON, Ont. -- It's never too early to start a party with the Stanley Cup, and Drew Doughty proved that Thursday.
The Los Angeles Kings' defenseman rolled out of bed to greet the Cup outside his home. Also waiting for him was his grandfather, Edward, with a homemade jug of white wine with a Guelph Storm logo painted on the side of it.
Grandpa implored his grandson to drink from it, and he obliged. The entire family sipped from the Cup in Doughty's kitchen before bringing it poolside in the back yard for some more celebratory imbibing.
Doughty's family -- including his billet family from his junior days in Guelph -- posed for photos with the Cup.
The party is expected to last until about 11 a.m. The group will board a party bus -- no drinking and driving -- that will take everyone to Doughty's youth rink and a nearby golf course where fans can view the Cup.
Dustin Brown's time as a member of the Ithaca High School ice hockey team was brief, yet illustrious. He went to the state championship game twice, losing in the final as a ninth grader in 1999 before winning it all the following season before leaving to play for Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League.
Despite the short stint in Ithaca, located in central New York, Brown played his hockey in two rinks and took the Stanley Cup to both Saturday.
The Los Angeles Kings captain stopped first at the rink he played at as a ninth grader, at Cass Park. It is an outdoor rink shielded from the sun but lacking in ice for Brown's visit. He said the reason Ithaca was able to do so well that season before losing in the state final was the benefit of playing outside. A sign hung congratulating Brown on his Stanley Cup win.
Dustin Brown's day with the Stanley Cup was filled with plenty of fun stops. The Los Angeles Kings captain spent three hours at Ithaca (N.Y.) High School allowing fans to get a picture with the Cup while signing everything from jerseys to hats to posters. He took the Cup to a waterfall and to the two rinks he called home during his two years at Ithaca High.
Brown allowed the media to tag along just about everywhere for his day with the Cup, but he asked for privacy at one very important stop late Saturday afternoon.
Brown and his family brought the Cup to the gravestone of Christopher Bordoni, his wife Nicole's cousin, a Marine who died in January as a result of injuries suffered in Afghanistan. Bordoni was serving his second tour of duty when he was critically wounded during a suicide attack. He was scheduled to return home in February.
While visiting his old high school during his day with the Cup, Kings captain Dustin Brown was faced with a daunting task -- making enough time for the nearly 1,000 people who lined up for a picture with the Cup.
Thanks to Brown's wife, Nicole, running a tight ship, everyone came away with a picture. A few lucky fans who bought raffle tickets even won an autographed miniature Cup. All the money collected this morning will go to the Semper Fi Fund, which does charity work for marines injured in the line of duty.
Brown got involved with the organization after his wife's cousin died due to injuries sustained while serving in Afghanistan.
Dustin Brown's day with the Cup in his hometown of Ithaca, NY got off to an early --and wet -- start.
Phil Pritchard, the keeper of the Cup, started his drive from the home of Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick in Stamford, CT at about 12:30 a.m., made a stop in a hotel for a couple hours of sleep before arriving at Brown's place.
Not long after the Cup arrived, so did the rain, which forced Brown and his three children to move the Cup into the garage. His oldest son, Jake, who is 3, had to be told he couldn't climb into the Cup like he had in the past.
Anze Kopitar is the NHL's first player from Slovenia, so he is clearly the first person to spend his day with the Cup in Slovenia.
Kopitar's special celebration in Jesenice started Thursday with the Cup being placed atop a log in the backyard of the family's home, one that has been used to celebrate hockey accomplishments of Anze and his brother, Gasper, over the years.
Kopitar had breakfast with the Cup and will eventually hand it off to coach Darryl Sutter, who will spend his day with the Cup in Viking, Alta., on the farm where he was raised.
The Stanley Cup began its tour of the world Wednesday, with Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov and forward Andrei Loktionov taking the Cup through several Russian cities.
Loktionov played just two games during the playoffs and none after the first round. Meanwhile, Voynov's emergence after the Kings dealt Jack Johnson to the Blue Jackets for Jeff Carter was a major reason for Los Angeles winning it all.
The Cup first arrived in Voynov's hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia, before Loktionov took it to a spot just outside Moscow.
LOS ANGELES -- If it seemed like the Los Angeles Kings were targeting the blocker side of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur during the Stanley Cup Final, it's because they were.
Of the 15 goals allowed by Brodeur, eight beat him to his stick side and many of them were significant.
In Game 1, Anze Kopitar beat Brodeur on a breakaway in overtime by going to the stick side. In Game 2, both Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter scored the Kings' lone goals in that direction. They scored seven goals in total during the first five games of the series, and it wasn't an accident.
"Yeah, that was part of it," Kings forward Dustin Penner told NHL.com. "Low blocker from far out, and from in tight you want to go high glove."
Kings forward Justin Williams beat Brodeur twice to the blocker side and said it was part of an evolving strategy against the future Hall-of-Famer.
"I think we overanalyzed it a little bit," Williams said. "We tried shooting low to start and he made a bunch of saves, and there's no trick to scoring on any goalie -- shots, screens, tips, rebounds. We drove the net hard."
LOS ANGELES -- As any locker room would be after coming so close to the ultimate prize, the Devils were downtrodden and frustrated after their 6-1 loss to the Kings in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
After falling into a 3-0 series hole, the Devils fought back to do what no team had done to the Kings throughout the postseason -- beat them twice in a series. It turned out that early hole was too much to overcome, but looking at the big picture, the Devils saw a silver lining in their season.
"We have to be really proud of what we accomplished," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "Not just in this series, but in the whole playoffs, the whole year. We took down two of our biggest rivals, with the Flyers and Rangers. We made this a series after losing the first three games. It's definitely disappointing not to go all the way, but it's definitely a great season for the Devils.
"The boys played really hard and worked really hard and adjusted ourselves as good as anybody. We came a long way from not making the playoffs last year to challenging for a Stanley Cup. It's disappointing, but I'm really proud of what we accomplished as a group."
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Barring any last-minute changes like the one Peter DeBoer made before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Devils will stick with the same lineup for Game 6 on Monday night at Staples Center.
The Devils' line combinations and defense pairings remained unchanged during Sunday's practice at Toyota Sports Center. Defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who convinced DeBoer to let him play in Game 4 and has been excellent in his two games, was again paired with Marek Zidlicky. Forward Petr Sykora wasn't great in Game 5, but he was still on a line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus.
The Devils will not have a morning skate before Game 6, instead only having media availability at their team hotel. Unless someone follows in the footsteps of Tallinder and makes a passionate case to play, here's what the Devils' lineup will be as the Kings hold a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Patrik Elias flew across the country Sunday afternoon as the Devils prepared to play the Los Angeles Kings in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night at Staples Center, which could be considered his second long-distance flight in less than 24 hours.
That's because Kings defenseman Matt Greene sent Elias flying during Game 5 on Saturday night.
Elias was carrying the puck down the left side on a 2-on-1 midway through the first period and tried to slide a pass to Dainius Zubrus. The puck missed its target, but Greene did not. He crushed Elias to the ice and into the end boards, leaving the Devils' center in a heap on the ice for several minutes.
"Yeah, I got hit," Elias said. "I went pretty hard into the boards, but I'm OK."
NEWARK, N.J. --Zach Parise was quite honest about his first goal of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.
"You've got to get lucky sometimes," he said of his first-period power-play goal in the New Jersey Devils' 2-1 win against Los Angeles in Game 5 at Prudential Center that cut the Kings' lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-2.
When Devils assistant coach Adam Oates, the architect of the team's power play, is imagining ways to crack the Kings' nearly invincible penalty kill, he isn't drawing up the series of events that led to Parise's goal.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Some coaches treat their interaction with the media the way a child would take to eating vegetables -- they do it begrudgingly and only because it's required.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer rarely goes into a press conference with that attitude, and it was on display Friday at Prudential Center.
DeBoer was asked a question from a reporter regarding his approach for keeping his team focused on Game 5 on Saturday and not the big picture of being down 3-1 in a series in which they trailed 3-0 before winning Game 4 on Wednesday.
Without hesitation, DeBoer delivered the quote of the day.
"To focus? I thought that question was going about the lady behind our bench last game," DeBoer said. "I thought we were heading that way."
During Game 4 at Staples Center, a female fan sitting behind the Devils' bench drew plenty of attention from television viewers throughout the contest, but DeBoer and the Devils never took their eyes off what was important.
"You saw my 100-percent focus on the game," DeBoer said. "That's discipline, I'll tell you."
NEWARK, N.J. -- At the start of the Stanley Cup Final, it was the Kings' power play that couldn't get anything done. It was 6-for-75, and 3-for-63 dating to Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Vancouver Canucks.
Through four games of the Final, it's the Devils who can't convert with the man-advantage.
The Kings have three power-play goals during the past two games, while New Jersey is 0-for-15 in the series. The Devils went 0-for-6 in Game 3 and failed to convert during a one-minute 5-on-3 power play during the first period.
The Devils went 0-for-3 in Game 4, but had six shots on net, something that's encouraging to coach Peter DeBoer.
"We had some good looks on the power play," DeBoer said. "I know the numbers don't speak well. I know when you're zero-for-whatever, everyone's calling for change, why don't you do this, why don't you do that. The one thing about our team is we believe in what we're doing.
"Most nights, it's about execution. I feel we've gotten good looks on the power play throughout the series. It's looked bad at points, credit to L.A., I think it's also looked real good, and we've gotten quality chances in other series, and prior series, we've stuck it in the net. We're going to stick with it. We're not a team that throws things out because they're not working."
The Devils spent time at the end of practice Friday working on their power play, but David Clarkson said it had nothing to do with the team's inability to finish in this series.
"We're doing a lot of the same things -- cycling the puck, winning battles, getting to the front of the net," Clarkson said. "It was more just an everyday practice where we're trying to create traffic and trying to find ways to get to the net. I think everything will fall into place."
NEWARK, N.J. --Henrik Tallinder felt a wide range of emotions during his first game in almost five months.
"It's a lot of words: Excitement, nervous, happy," Tallinder said. "I mean, there were so many emotions out there. I just enjoyed it. It was so much fun."
The 33-year-old defenseman made his return in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final after dealing with a blood clot in his left leg during the regular season and most of the playoffs. Tallinder took special precautions for the six-hour flight to Los Angeles but was left out of the lineup for Game 3.
Tallinder had 19:21 of ice time on 29 shifts and had two shots on net in Game 4 as the Devils fended off elimination by winning 3-1 to force Game 5 on Saturday night at Prudential Center. He delivered one hit and blocked one shot, and earned rave reviews from coach Peter DeBoer.
"I thought he was outstanding," DeBoer said. "Big boost for us."
It was a boost, however, that nearly didn't happen.
Following practice Tuesday in Los Angeles, DeBoer told Tallinder that he would not be in the lineup for Game 4 and Peter Harrold would remain paired with Anton Volchenkov. Whatever it was that Tallinder said during the conversation, it caused DeBoer to rethink his strategy later that day.
"Really where I had a change of heart was just in his reaction," DeBoer said. "It wasn't negative. He was just adamant that he was ready, really thought he could help. When a player puts his neck on the line like that, I get a real comfort level knowing he was a veteran guy and knowing how good he was at the top of his game for us as a top-two guy, that he could help us.
"It was a little bit of a risk, but he basically talked me into that."
Fellow defenseman Bryce Salvador was impressed with how Tallinder acclimated himself so quickly in the toughest of situations.
"Being out that long, coming back into a do-or-die game in a hostile environment, I think he did unbelievable," Salvador said. "It shows the poise he has to step right in. He was on the puck, making plays, carrying the puck like he hadn't missed a game. It was a positive thing for us. It's nice to have him back."
LOS ANGELES -- It took 249 minutes, 51 seconds of the Stanley Cup Final for the New Jersey Devils to play with the lead; it took 62 seconds for them to relinquish it.
In winning the first three games of the series, the Los Angeles Kings never trailed. That was the case through the first two periods of Game 4 on Wednesday night at Staples Center, but the Devils' Patrik Elias banged home a rebound at 7:56 of the third period to put his team ahead 1-0.
Shortly after the watershed moment, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty ripped a one-timer from the blue line during a power play that made it 1-1. L.A. cashed in just four seconds after David Clarkson was sent to the penalty box for boarding Dustin Brown.
But instead of folding, the Devils regrouped.
"That's a crossroads, that's a turning point," coach Peter DeBoer said. "The fact we pushed right back was critical."
Adam Henrique scored the winner less than seven minutes later to help give the Devils a 3-1 victory. Game 5 will take place at Prudential Center in Newark on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
Doughty's goal was especially tough to swallow for the Devils, who weren't happy with the call against Clarkson.
"Coaches and players didn't feel there was a penalty," Clarkson said. "They were letting me know right away. That's the type of guys we have on this team, the leadership we have. It was tough when it gets called like that. But you know what -- we found a way to get the win. That's big going home now."
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It took three straight losses, but Devils coach Peter DeBoer appears to be ready to tweak his lineup during the Stanley Cup Final.
Forward Petr Sykora will apparently return to the lineup for Game 4 on Wednesday night and replace Jacob Josefson, who snagged Sykora's spot in the lineup after Game 2 of the conference finals against the Rangers.
Sykora skated at practice Tuesday afternoon on a line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus while Josefson was skating with Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton as part of the extra fifth line. DeBoer wouldn't say for certain Sykora is back, but he said he's considering the switch.
"He's an option for us," DeBoer said. "We're going to consider him. We haven't scored and he's a guy who doesn't need a lot of looks to stick one in the net."
The Devils won the series in six games, exacting a small measure of revenge for the 1994 conference finals when Messier's Rangers defeated the Devils in seven games and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Messier was on hand Monday at Staples Center before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final to announce the finalists for his leadership award, a trio that included the Rangers' Ryan Callahan, the Kings' Dustin Brown and the Coyotes' Shane Doan, and discussed his emotions while watching the Devils and Rangers renew pleasantries 18 years later.
"It was an incredible time," said Messier, who serves as a special assistant to Rangers GM Glen Sather. "A lot of our teammates were texting back and forth and talking during the series. I was trying to stay out of the way during the series. I really felt the players on both teams earned the right to be in that position and shouldn't have been overshadowed by things that happened prior to that series. My ship had sailed a long time ago."
One of the big reasons the Rangers fell short this year was Marian Gaborik, who played nearly the entire postseason with a torn rotator cuff and had just five goals and six assists in 20 games. Gaborik will be out five to six months while he recovers, meaning he could miss the first couple of months of the 2012-13 season, but Messier has seen him grow since signing with the Rangers three years ago.
"Marian Gaborik is 10 times the hockey player he was when he came to the Rangers," Messier said. "He continues to improve and continues to want to improve."
Despite the disappointment, Messier believes this year's deep run for a young Rangers team could pay dividends down the road.
"I think the last three years have been a real great spark for the team and the organization," Messier said. "I think Glen has really done a great job of getting some key people in the right spots. I think the year that we had this year is a culmination of what we had the last couple years. Going forward, I think this year, you can't quantify what it means for these players to play this string of playoff hockey, to feel what it's like to play that deep in the playoffs. Those are hard lessons to learn unless you experience them. From that standpoint, our team has taken a major leap forward this year."
Devils coach Peter DeBoer said before the series, which the Kings lead 2-0 with Game 3 set for Monday night at Staples Center, that David Clarkson was a big-time goal-scorer. Despite Clarkson's missed chances in Game 1 and struggles in Game 2, DeBoer maintains that belief.
"Yeah, for me that hasn't changed," DeBoer said. "I thought Game 1, he was arguably our best forward. I thought he could have had two or three goals. He's a guy on the verge of breaking out, as is (Zach) Parise, as is (Ilya) Kovalchuk.
"I don't think it's any secret -- we have to score more than one goal. All those guys on that list have to find a way."
Clarkson had a pair of golden opportunities in Game 1, but never got his shot to the net on either of them. In one instance, Quick was well out of position, but Clarkson snapped his shot over the net and off the glass.
Rushed shots and overthinking, however, are two things that come with the territory when facing an elite goaltender like Quick.
"Yeah, he's a good goalie," Clarkson said. "The first one I let get away from me, was trying to go high. I thought maybe he was going to go down. I tried to go up high, missing that one. On the other, there was so much excitement when I saw the open net, I don't know if I hit the guy's skate or what happened.
"But, yeah, he's a goalie that definitely makes you think. You can't do that. This time of the season, we have to put it on net, get back to doing what made us successful and got us here today."
Parise put the puck into the net in Game 1, but did so illegally with his glove. Kovalchuk hit a crossbar in the dying seconds of regulation in Game 2. The two were put on a line together at the end of Game 2 and will likely start that way in Game 3.
"I feel like we had good scoring opportunities," Parise said. "Even in overtime, I know we had two or three good chances there, too. All in all, I thought it was OK. I mean, we didn't end up putting one in the net, but we had some chances. Hopefully we'll rebound tonight. We've played pretty well together all season. Hopefully tonight will be better."
MARINA DEL REY, Calif. -- It was a little bit before 8 a.m. local time Monday when Devils coach Peter DeBoer stepped to the podium in a conference room at The Ritz-Carlton hotel, which is about 30 minutes from Staples Center, the site of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"It's one of those things where I didn't really focus too much on it, to be honest," Salvador said. "It hasn't been that big of a deal."
It's a massive change in routine for the Devils in many respects. One, very rarely will a team eschew a morning skate unless it is playing on back-to-back days. Also, this was the first time the Devils boarded a plane since eliminating the Florida Panthers in the first round on April 26.
If the 37-day break from air travel isn't enough, Game 3 of the Cup Final is the Devils' first outside of the Eastern time zone since playing in Winnipeg on Jan. 14.
"We were pretty fortunate for two series to not get on a plane," Greene said. "It feels good to get back into this routine a little bit and get back on the road and get away from home and get back to being focused on just the single thing, it's the game. It's not that we're not focused at home, but on the road, there are a lot less distractions. I think it'll be a big plus for us."
"Hopefully it plays to our advantage, getting that extra rest and not having those long flights," Parise said. "Hopefully as the series moves on, that'll be to our advantage."
Despite the unique game-day schedule, DeBoer said the plan was to get his team adjusted to the Pacific time zone as quickly as possible.
"We had a later dinner," DeBoer said. "We tried to keep the guys up until 10 or 11 o'clock. I don't know if it's realistic, but you want to get on L.A. time as quickly as you can. That's our thought process."
Greene said not having a game-day skate at Staples Center shouldn't be a hindrance.
"I don't think it's that big of a deal," he said. "We had a good practice yesterday after we got off the flight, had good energy out there. Guys were upbeat and ready. It's not like when we skate out there in the morning skate, it's not like we're out there for an hour testing the ice anyways. You're out there for 10 or 15 minutes and done. Get out there in warmups, get a good warmup and be ready for the game.
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The Devils are down 2-0 in the series, but DeBoer liked the way his team raised its game in a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 2 after losing in the same fashion in Game 1.
"We seriously consider lineup changes," DeBoer said. "We've got some depth players, some big people that are available to us. The process we've gone through after every game is watch the tape and see who can come in or come out and make us a better team. We don't want to do it based on the situation we're in. A couple guys had good games last game, and just because you lost or you're in a 2-0 hole doesn't mean you make changes just to make changes. I don't think we're at that point. We don't need to panic and do that."
Defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who is healthy after dealing with a blood clot in his leg in January, made the trip to Los Angeles but will not break into the lineup. Rookie Adam Larsson, who hasn't played since Game 1 of the conference finals against the Rangers, will sit for the eighth straight game.
These are the lines the Devils showed at practice Tuesday. With a 5 p.m. local start time for Game 3, the Devils did not have a morning skate.
DeBoer shuffled his lines during the end of Game 2 on Saturday -- the Devils' second straight 2-1 overtime loss of the series -- and that was what was on display at practice Sunday afternoon. There was no change to the defense pairings, with Henrik Tallinder and Adam Larsson skating together.
"We look at every option after every game, win or lose," said DeBoer, who liked his team's performance in Game 2. "We want to put the best lineup on the ice. All those guys are a consideration after every game."
Here is what the Devils showed at practice. The team will not skate in the morning before Game 4 on Monday, as the local start time for the game is 5 p.m. Instead, the Devils will only have media availability at their hotel at 8 a.m.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils' power play had three shots in four empty chances in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night. Not only were the Devils inept with the man-advantage, they allowed the Kings two shots while they were killing penalties.
The final power-play opportunity came late in regulation with the game tied, and while the Devils didn't get a shot on goaltender Jonathan Quick, forward Ilya Kovalchuk ripped a shot that hit the crossbar. That was about as close as the Devils came to scoring on the power play in a game they would lose in overtime 2-1 to fall into a 2-0 series hole.
"It's embarrassing the way we played," Kovalchuk said about the power play. "We have to work harder on the power play. We just think it'll be easy, but they have a great penalty kill for a reason. We have to be sharper and work, support each other everywhere, because I don't think we got a shot on net in three power plays."
The Devils are now 0-for-6 in the series, which shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Monday night. During their first power play, which came early in the first period, the Devils never generated a sustained attack. Instead, the Devils allowed two scoring chances to forwards Mike Richards and Trevor Lewis, sapping the strength of a strong start.
Less than two minutes after that first power play didn't bear fruit, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty gutted the Devils' defense for a highlight-reel goal that made it 1-0.
"I don't know if it's our PP or their PK," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "They're killing really aggressively and making a lot of good plays. They're not taking any chances and we're having a hard time getting to our setup. It's definitely something we have to work at and make sure we're a little better."
NEWARK, N.J. -- A blood clot in his left leg kept Henrik Tallinder out of the Devils lineup since Jan. 17, but the 33-year-old defenseman is now healthy enough to board a plane to Los Angeles during the Stanley Cup Final.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he has no reservations about putting Tallinder in his lineup, although that won't be the case in Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final against the Kings on Saturday night (8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS). DeBoer had some concerns about letting Tallinder take a six-hour flight due to his blood-clotting condition, but the team gave him clearance.
"Sure, you worry about it," DeBoer said. "Our doctors, trainers and him have a comfort level or he wouldn't be traveling with us. It's definitely an issue. I think a lot of people point to airplane flight as the cause for that."
Tallinder wasn't available Saturday to discuss what precautions he'll need to take in order to fly, but he once again skated with the team's black aces. He has been healthy enough to play for about two weeks, and DeBoer has fewer worries about putting Tallinder back in the lineup after such a long layoff after seeing forwards Travis Zajac and Jacob Josefson seamlessly jump back into game conditions after lengthy absences.
You're never sure. I do know this -- he's kept himself in great shape," DeBoer said. "He looks good in practice. Before he went out, he was a top-two defenseman for us. You miss two, two and a half months. It didn't hurt Zajac coming back in. I know you're jumping into the Stanley Cup Final, not into the last week of the regular season. But Josefson jumped in last round against the Rangers coming off six weeks out with a broken wrist, and it didn't hurt him.
"You hope you get the desired result, but you never know."
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils had arguably their worst start to a game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night.
Through 34 minutes, 30 seconds, they had just six shots on goal. They had a hard time getting out of their own zone, completing a pass was a monumental task and most players were treating the puck like a ticking time bomb instead of making the calm decisions that were a cornerstone to their forecheck and pressure through three rounds.
The Devils could've chalked it up to many reasons. They could have blamed the ice or credited the Los Angeles Kings with playing well, but instead owned up to their shakiness during the early stages of their 2-1 overtime loss in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Prudential Center.
"We were excited to start, but I thought we were a little nervous in the first period in the way that we played," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "I thought we settled in pretty good after that."
Wait, the Devils were nervous?
"It's the Stanley Cup Final," Brodeur said matter-of-factly. "It's not that easy to go out and perform. You have to wait to see what kind of atmosphere it's going to be. Whether it's five times for me or the first time, you get butterflies. It's an exciting time to be part of it. I'm sure the Kings will tell you the same thing. They were probably nervous at times also. It's what hockey's all about."
All but five Devils were playing in their first Final on Wednesday, and perhaps the pressure got to them early. The Devils had 11 giveaways to the Kings' six and while they overcame a 1-0 deficit to tie it late in the second period, they clearly weren't as sharp as they had been during the conference finals against the New York Rangers. >
Even Ilya Kovalchuk, who hasn't been this deep in the playoffs during his career, said his teammates' nerves were evident early.
I think it was probably the worst game in the playoffs for us," Kovalchuk said. "Maybe we were a little too nervous before the game starts. But it's no excuse. We got to make sure we know what we're doing right and get better."
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NEWARK, N.J. -- Simon Gagne won't be in the Kings' lineup for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, but coach Darryl Sutter reiterated that the forward's chances of playing in the next two weeks are better than they had been in the past.
"I'm not answering that question again about Simon," said Sutter, who has been receiving the question pretty steadily since the end of conference finals. "Cleared for contact, cleared for practice, traveling with the team. So there won't be any further update on that one because, quite honestly, the answer is the same and I don't know how to answer it. You tell the truth or say nothing."
The honest Sutter will likely ice the same lineup that got the Kings to the Cup Final with a 12-2 mark and 8-0 road record. Here are the expected lineup combinations the Devils will face:
NEWARK, N.J. -- There isn't a team that gets this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that doesn't have players with nagging injuries, but the Devils are about as healthy as can be with the Final set to start Wednesday night at Prudential Center.
Of all the Devils on the ice for practice Monday, none were used as extra forwards or defensemen because they were recovering from injury. The team's "fifth line" of Petr Sykora, Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton could all play if necessary, while seventh and eighth blueliners Adam Larsson and Henrik Tallinder are also well enough to play.
Tallinder has been out since Jan. 17 due to a blood clot in his leg, but coach Peter DeBoer said that is no longer an issue.
"He's ready to go," DeBoer said. "I have no apprehension (using him). We can play anyone we have available right now."
According to DeBoer, everyone is available. That's something few teams have when the calendar creeps toward June, but it's also something the just-as-healthy Kings can boast as well.
"This is a war of attrition," DeBoer said. "To be as healthy as we are, to have the luxury of having eight healthy defensemen right now and entire forward group, that's something very few teams have. Unfortunately, L.A. has the same thing, so there's no advantage. It's a nice spot to be in."
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils had their first practice Monday since vanquishing the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night, and Peter DeBoer didn't make any changes to his line combinations.
DeBoer shuffled his lines during the series-clinching Game 6 victory against the Rangers, and those were the lines on display at Amerihealth Pavilion. The "fifth line" featured Petr Sykora, Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen, all three of whom are likely to be healthy scratches during the Stanley Cup Final. The same can be said for defensemen Adam Larsson and Henrik Tallinder, at least to start the Final, who acted as the fourth d-pair.
Game 1 of the Final against the Los Angeles Kings is still two days away, but here is what the Devils went with Monday afternoon:
NEWARK, N.J. -- The only change from Game 5 to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals is a swap of defensemen among the New York Rangers, with Steve Eminger replacing Stu Bickel as the team's sixth blueliner.
The lines the New Jersey Devils showed at practice Friday morning remained intact during pregame warmups at Prudential Center, while the Rangers showed the same combinations they had at the start of Game 5.
Eminger is making his fourth appearance of the postseason and third of this series. He played in place of forward Brandon Prust on the Rangers' fourth line in Game 3 and saw time on defense with Michael Del Zotto struggling during the second and third periods. He stayed in the lineup as a defenseman for Game 4, but sat out Game 5.
Here are the combinations the Rangers and Devils displayed during warmups. The Devils lead the best-of-seven series 3-2.
NEW YORK -- Rangers coach John Tortorella was a little more forthcoming about his lineup before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, admitting changes were coming without being specific about players.
Tortorella was far less revealing Friday morning with the Rangers trailing Devils 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, with Game 6 set for Friday night at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"I don't know what my lineup's going to be," Tortorella said.
The only likely change is Steve Eminger replacing Stu Bickel as the team's sixth defenseman. Eminger left the ice at practice Friday morning before Bickel, an indication a change is coming.
Tortorella put his lines in a blender at times during Game 5, but this was how they started and they could look the same way Friday night.
NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello is healthy and ready to go. The only problem for the diminutive forward is finding a opening in the lineup.
"If they need me, I'll be ready," Zuccarello said following Rangers practice Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Zuccarello has not played since breaking his wrist March 23. He had surgery that cost him the rest of the regular season, but he has recovered to the point where he believes he can play. He has been skating with the Rangers' black aces of late, but his wrist is back at full strength.
Rangers coach John Tortorella made a lineup tweak before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, inserting Brandon Dubinsky in place of John Mitchell. Dubinsky missed 11 games with a lower-body injury suffered during Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals, but was playing regularly before the injury. Zuccarello had 2 goals in 10 regular-season games and spent most of the season playing for the Connecticut Whale of the AHL.
Barring injuries or suspensions, Zuccarello will likely be watching from the press box for Game 6 and beyond during the playoffs.
NEW YORK -- The Rangers will take a "been there, done that" approach into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Facing a 3-2 deficit in the best-of-seven series against the New Jersey Devils, the Rangers will fight for their postseason lives Friday night at Prudential Center. They faced the same situation in the first round against the Ottawa Senators and won two straight to avoid the upset.
"It was a tough day that day losing at home and having to travel to Ottawa," Rangers center Brad Richards said. "You could see the group is a lot looser today going through the same situation. That's how you grow, you build on everything you've done in your career. We've been fortunate to get a lot of those games this year already."
After staving off elimination twice against Ottawa, the Rangers won another Game 7 in the conference quarterfinals against the Capitals to improve to 3-0 with their season on the line. The Rangers entered the postseason filled with playoff neophytes, but they have become a far more grizzled team that relishes the pressure.
"We've been through these situations a lot this year, including in the playoffs," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "So I'm very comfortable as far as our mindset. Today was a good day for us. As we approach our game, I'm very comfortable in where we're going to go. It's a good group. It's a group that stays with it. So there's not a lot of panic there. They just go about their business and we're a pretty good hockey team.
"This is all really good stuff for our team as you go through. This is how you gain experience, by going through it. We've played a number of playoff games. Some guys have thrived in it, some guys haven't. These are all situations you look at as an organization as far as what guys are in these types of situations. So the more you're in it, the more situations that you go through, the better. That's how you gain experience."
Dubinsky has missed the last 11 games with a lower-body injury he suffered during Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators. He's participated in the Rangers' previous four practices and is ready to give the sagging squad some fresh legs.
In seven games against the Senators, Dubinsky had just one assist. But he will provide a boost both in the faceoff circle and on the penalty-killing unit.
NEW YORK -- If you lit a candle at Our Lady of the Struggling Rangers Goal Scorers, chances are coach John Tortorella thinks you've taken his statement from Tuesday a bit too far.
Following a brief practice, Tortorella was asked what he can do in order to get his best offensive players to play better in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils. His one-word answer: "Pray."
"I know I used that word 'pray' yesterday," Tortorella said. "It was a joke. There are a lot more important things to pray about than a win or a goal. So can I clear that up, please?"
Gaborik and Hagelin don't have a point in the series, Richards hasn't scored a goal and Callahan's only goal was of the empty-net variety in Game 3. With the series tied 2-2, time is running out of those players to get themselves going, but Tortorella has, for a lack of a better word, faith they can turn it around.
"I have total confidence in our guys," Tortorella said. "It's a great opportunity for us and I'm looking forward to it."
NEW YORK -- Getting a coach to reveal his lineup on a game day during the Stanley Cup Playoffs is akin to getting a government official to hand over top secret documents that could destroy national security.
So while Rangers coach John Tortorella didn't lay out his line combinations Wednesday morning for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils, he admitted change might be good for his slow-starting team in this dead-even series.
"We need something to happen for ourselves," Tortorella said. "We'll try different things, I'll give you that. But it's still a matter of getting it done. At least that's how I feel about it. So we'll see where it goes."
Brandon Prust will definitely return to the lineup after his one-game suspension and replace Stu Bickel, who is likely to return to his spot on the blue line and send Steve Eminger back to the press box. There's also the potential for the return of forward Brandon Dubinsky, who hasn't played since Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators.
Dubinsky suffered a lower-body injury that cost him the entire second-round series with the Washington Capitals, but he has practiced four of the past five days. He also exited Wednesday's optional morning skate early while forward John Mitchell remained on the ice with the healthy scratches, a sign Tortorella is going to swap the pair.
Dubinsky had just one assist in seven games against the Senators, but he could help in the faceoff circle. During the regular season, he won 51.9 percent of his draws. During the postseason, the Rangers have won 48 percent of faceoffs, 15th out of 16th teams -- only the Devils have won fewer faceoffs.
Here's a best guess at the Rangers' lineup for Game 5 against the Devils:
NEW YORK -- After serving a one-game suspension for a hit on the Devils' Anton Volchenkov in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Rangers forward Brandon Prust will be back for Game 5 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
With Prust out of the lineup, defenseman Stu Bickel dressed as a forward in Game 4, but Bickel was back practicing with his fellow blueliners Tuesday. Prust has been a valuable part of the Rangers' checking line and penalty-killing unit, both of which were victimized for goals during the Devils' 4-1 victory Monday night that evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2.
"Prust does a lot for us, killing penalties, brings a lot of energy, hard on the forecheck," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "We need to get our forecheck going. It's good to get him back."
There's no statistic for time of possession when it comes to which team has the puck more in a given contest, but the Devils have been controlling the puck for this entire series. They were at their best in that regard at times during Game 4, as the Rangers couldn't get out of their own end and were unable to muster any type of sustained forecheck.
It's hard to blame the lack of Prust for the power-play goal by Zach Parise in the third period, as the goal came four seconds into the man-advantage with regular penalty-killing forwards Boyle and Callahan on the ice. The Rangers killed five of six penalties in the game, but many of them featured the Devils seemingly more interested in burning clock than going for a fourth goal.
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NEW YORK -- The Rangers looked like they didn't have a prayer against the Devils during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, a 4-1 win by New Jersey on Monday night that evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2.
It appears Rangers coach John Tortorella is willing to explore a more religious avenue to get his team going.
The Rangers have nine goals through four games of this series -- two are empty-netters, three are from defensemen and three are from rookie Chris Kreider. Callahan, Richards, Gaborik and Hagelin have combined for one goal and four assists, with Gaborik and Hagelin failing to register a point.
When coaching isn't getting the job done, perhaps it doesn't hurt to turn to a higher power.
"I don't know what else to tell you," Tortorella said. "We're going to keep on trying to play, pray, and hopefully something good happens tomorrow."
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NEW YORK -- With Brandon Prust out of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals due to a one-game suspension, the Rangers will likely turn to a defenseman to fill the vacated spot at forward.
Stu Bickel, who played four games as a forward in February with the Rangers battling injuries, was dressed as a forward during the Rangers' morning skate at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Bickel was a healthy scratch for Game 3, but is ready to make the adjustment to forward to replace Prust.
Bickel wouldn't reveal for sure if he was in the lineup, but said there was a small adjustment to playing as a fourth-line forward.
"I don't know what's going on as far as tonight goes," Bickel said. "It's still the same game. We all know the systems and everything like that. I don't think it was too tough. It maybe took me a couple shifts. I don't remember that far back exactly how it went. I don't think it was too bad."
Forward Brandon Dubinsky practiced for the third time in four days (the Rangers did not have a practice or morning skate before Game 3) but stayed on the ice long after Bickel went to the locker room and will not play in Game 4. Dubinsky's presence would've given the Rangers more flexibility on the penalty kill, a role Prust has played all season but Bickel has not.
With Dubinsky out of the lineup since Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals, the Rangers have sprinkled the shorthanded ice time among forwards between five main guys -- Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko. Dubinsky has played a major role on the PK all season, but his absence leaves the Rangers with just four steady penalty-killing forwards.
The next-busiest penalty-killing forwards after that group of six during the postseason are Brad Richards (20 seconds per game) and Artem Anisimov (19 seconds per game). Should the Rangers find themselves in a lot of shorthanded situations against the Devils, they will likely have to call on their depth to help kill the penalties.
The Rangers found a way to get by during the conference quarterfinals with Carl Hagelin lost for three games due to a suspension, as rookie Chris Kreider filled the opening and is now the Rangers' second-leading goal scorer in the playoffs with five.
With Prust out, someone else will need to step up for one game.
"He's a big guy for us. He plays in a lot of key situations," Callahan said of Prust. "He's a guy who brings energy to us. It's an opportunity for someone to step up and step in. You saw earlier in the playoffs when we lost a guy like Hags and Kreids steps in and he plays big. It's an opportunity for somebody and somebody has to grab a hold of it."
The Rangers did not hold a full practice and therefore did not reveal any potential line combinations. But if Bickel replaces Prust, here's what the lineup could potentially look like against the Devils as the Rangers look to extend their lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-1.
NEW YORK -- Rangers coach John Tortorella made a point Sunday to say while Brandon Prust delivered a hit to the head of Anton Volchenkov during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, perhaps the NHL should look at a hit the Devils' Dainius Zubrus had on Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman in the same game.
Prust received a one-game ban for his hit and will be out of the lineup for Game 4 on Monday night, but Zubrus' alleged illegal hit went unpunished. At about the eight-minute mark of the second period of Game 3, Zubrus can be seen knocking Stralman to the ice, but Stralman said Monday morning that he had no recollection of that hit.
"I didn't feel anything," Stralman said. "I haven't seen it. I don't know what it looks like. I'm looking forward to the game tonight."
Stralman is sporting a black right eye, but that was from a hit he received earlier in the playoffs and not from Zubrus.
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NEW YORK -- Brandon Dubinsky, who hasn't played since Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals, was on the ice Sunday for the Rangers' optional practice at Madison Square Garden.
It's the second time Dubinsky has practiced since injuring his ankle and first time he wasn't wearing a non-contact jersey.
"It's nice to be back with the guys," said Dubinsky, who offered no timeline for his return. "It's nice to shoot some pucks on a goalie. It just feels good to be around and actually get a chance to jump on the ice."
If Rangers' forward Brandon Prust is suspended for his hit to the head of Anton Volchenkov in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday, coach John Tortorella isn't sure what that will do to his lineup for Game 4 Monday night.
"I don't know what I'm going to do with the lineup," Tortorella said. "I don't think he should be suspended. So I really haven't gone that far, because I don't think he should be."
On Sunday, Rangers coach John Tortorella responded to that comment by defending Prust and accusing the Devils of embellishing calls and setting illegal picks during their power plays.
"He's probably one of the most honest players," Tortorella said, before launching into a a big chunk of gamesmanship. "I look at (Dainius Zubrus') elbow to (Anton) Stralman. I look at (Zach) Parise launching himself at (Michael) Del Zotto. Maybe if our players stay down on the ice, we'll get something. We tell our players don't stay down on the ice, get up.
"The picking on the power play. If we want to start discussing officials with the media, I've got a long list here. That's a set play by Jersey -- picking so we can't get to (Ilya) Kovalchuk to block his shot. There's some gamesmanship right there, huh?"
The hit by Prust did not draw a penalty, but it did earn him a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety Sunday morning. He explained the hit following an optional practice at Madison Square Garden, saying Volchenkov ducked into the hit at the last moment.
"I was just trying to get in a check before I was at the end of a shift," Prust said. "I was skating over for a routine check to rub him out and get off the ice and he bailed out of it and turned and kind of went low. It's just kind of a reaction when you're off-balance and your arms go up. I didn't want to do a face-plant into the boards. I had no intent to hit him in the head there."
In regards to the intentional interference with the Devils on the power play, Tortorella was referencing Kovalchuk's goal in Game 2. The puck was moved quickly from the right side of the zone to the left side, and a wide-open Kovalchuk was able to snap a shot over the catching glove of Henrik Lundqvist.
One of the reasons Kovalchuk was all alone was the Devils' Patrik Elias getting in the way of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi.
"There's been a few times when they try to get in the way in front of the net," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "It's obviously something they've talked about and they're trying to do. We're trying to do our best to get around that, but sometimes you can't and it creates an opportunity for their team. It's more noticeable against these guys. For us as 'D' you want to try to stay loose in case something breaks down. Hopefully this gets the radar up a little bit and helps us out."
As for the notion that the Devils are trying to buy calls by staying down on the ice, Prust said he was surprised that Volchenkov didn't get up right away.
"I didn't even know I elbowed him," Prust said. "I went to the bench and thought maybe I caught him with my knee, maybe charlie-horsed him. I didn't hit him that hard. I think I just grazed his helmet and it slid up. For sure, he's trying to get a penalty when your helmet comes up. It's just natural trying to sell that."
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Rangers had been icing the identical lineup and combinations to start a game since the end of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but that all changed Friday afternoon at practice.
Coach John Tortorella moved Mike Rupp from the fourth line to the third line and dropped Ruslan Fedotenko to the fourth line. The third line now features more size and strength with the 6-foot-7, 244-pound Brian Boyle in the middle, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Artem Anisimov on the left wing and the 6-foot-5, 243-pound Rupp on the right.
The Rangers felt they lost too many puck battles along the wall in their 3-2 loss to the Devils in Game 2 of the conference finals. Adding more beef to the checking line could help solve that problem.
"That's a big part of how we play," Tortorella said. "Big, small or medium build, we play hard along the boards. Obviously that was void the other night."
Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Prudential Center, so there will be no morning skate before the game. These are the lines the Devils can expect to face when the puck is dropped with the series tied 1-1.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky practiced Friday for the first time since April 27 while wearing an orange non-contact jersey.
Dubinsky suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators and has been out since that time.
The 26-year-old stayed on the ice for about 20 minutes Friday before exiting to the locker room. Rangers coach John Tortorella offered no timetable for Dubinsky's return.
"He was on the ice," Tortorella said. "Other than that, there's no update."
Dubinsky has one assist in seven games this postseason.
In other injury news, forward Mats Zuccarello (wrist) is no longer skating with the regular group and is instead practicing with the black aces called up from Connecticut of the AHL. Zuccarello is still not ready to play, but his skating with the healthy scratches is a strong indicator that even when he's healthy, he won't crack the lineup barring an injury to a teammate.
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers likely will ice the same lineup for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) as they did in Game 1.
The Rangers have shuffled lines, but they have used the same personnel since center Brian Boyle returned from a concussion for Game 2 of the conference semifinals against the Washington Capitals.
Here's what to expect when the team takes the ice:
Only Erixon and Newbury have spent time with the Rangers this season. The group will serve as spare players -- the Black Aces -- and likely practice separately from the rest of the team going forward.
The 19-year-old Miller was the Rangers' first-round pick (No. 15) in the 2011 Entry Draft. Prior to joining the Whale, where he had one point in eight playoffs games, he played 61 games with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, totaling 25 goals and 37 assists.
McIlrath, 20, made his professional debut with Connecticut on April 9 against Bridgeport, and skated in two regular-season games with the Whale. The Rangers' 2010 first-round pick also appeared in five playoff games with Connecticut. Prior to joining Connecticut, McIlrath had three goals and a career-high 20 assists in 52 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League.
Talbot, 24, posted a 14-15-1 record with a 2.61 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and four shutouts in 33 games with Connecticut.
Wellman, 24, split the season between Connecticut and the Houston Aeros, totaling 23 goals and 24 assists in 57 games. Wellman joined Connecticut on Feb. 3 after the Rangers acquired him from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Erik Christensen and a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
NEW YORK -- Here are the potential line combinations and defense pairings the Rangers will employ for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils, which should be what they used two nights ago when they eliminated the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the conference semifinals.
Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) was seen walking through the locker room Monday morning and working out, but he remains out of the lineup and has not practiced in more than two weeks. Mats Zuccarello (wrist) is still working his way back to 100 percent, but he hasn't been taking shots at full strength during practices. Both won't be in the lineup for Game 1.
Not surprisingly, coach John Tortorella, to put it nicely, doesn't lend much credence to that statistic.
"That's a bunch of (hogwash)," he said Monday morning.
Statistics that extend 25 years into the past can either be looked at as having deep meaning or so old that they are completely irrelevant. Last season the Boston Bruins won their first-round series in seven games and went on to win the Cup, becoming the first team to accomplish that feat since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992.
The always insightful Ruslan Fedotenko, who is 6-0 in Game 7s in his career and scored twice in Game 7 when the Lightning won the Cup in 2004, offered his thoughts on what statistics mean to him.
"Statistics are all in the past. It doesn't matter what we did in the past," Fedotenko said. "I scored two goals in Game 7, but does that matter? Did I score last two games? No, it doesn't really matter. What's in the past is in the past and there's always a record to break and always a new record to set and things to do. To me, it doesn't matter.
"Each round is different. Each team is different. There's different circumstances, different things. I don't believe in stats, or, 'Oh, I'm 6-0, that means for sure I'm 7-0.' No, it's absolutely not. It doesn't matter what's in the past. It's good in the past I was able to be on the winning side, but it doesn't matter going forward. That's my point of view."
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NEW YORK --Mike Rupp has experienced the Rangers-Devils rivalry from both sides of the Hudson River, and he distinctly remembers the first time he realized how heated it was as a rookie in New Jersey even before playing against New York.
Rupp scored two goals in his first NHL game on Jan. 13, 2003, against the Florida Panthers at Continental Airlines Arena, but he immediately picked up on how much Devils fans hated the Rangers during that contest.
"I just remember the chants when I was playing in New Jersey, the old famous chant when you're playing the Florida Panthers and they're saying, "Rangers (stink)!" Rupp said. "That's the one thing I remember the most, so I thought there must be something to it. It's obviously something special."
Rupp signed with the Rangers this past summer and has experienced six games from the other side of the rivalry this season. He'll take part in a seventh Monday when the Rangers and Devils open their Eastern Conference Finals series at Madison Square Garden.
The 32-year-old enforcer, just like every player who will lace up the skates for this series, said while it's fun for the fans, the opposition doesn't matter when a trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line.
"I don't know. I think if you were facing them in the first round, maybe it would feel more like it, if that makes sense," Rupp said. "Right now, we're four wins away from getting to where you've been working so hard to get to as a team. I don't really think about that. I really don't. I don't look at them as me playing for them or one of our biggest rivals. That's kind of nonexistent right now. Now it's about winning hockey games. It doesn't matter who it's against."
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Brandon Dubinsky strolled through the Rangers locker room Saturday morning without the aid of a walking boot or crutches, but his lower-body injury doesn't seem to have healed enough to allow him to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Dubinsky said Sunday he is still not ready to return to action against the New Jersey Devils Monday night at Madison Square Garden. He was back in the walking boot but itching to play against the rival Devils.
"It's exciting to watch us win and move on to the next round, and it gives me hope and allows me to have something to keep working for, looking forward to coming back and helping this team," Dubinsky told reporters in Greenburgh, N.Y. "It's unfortunate not being able to play, but lucky enough for me the team is winning without me in the lineup. But I think I can still help this team, so it's just a matter of getting back as fast as I can."
Dubinsky suffered his injury during Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators and missed the entire second-round series against Washington Capitals. In seven games against the Senators, Dubinsky had one assist.
NEW YORK -- Capitals forward Jay Beagle will not be in the lineup for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Rangers on Saturday night, as he did not take part in pregame warmups.
Beagle missed Game 6 of the series on Wednesday with a lower-body injury and did not participate in the game-day skate at Madison Square Garden. He was replaced in the lineup by Jeff Halpern, who had been a healthy scratch since March 23 and will once again be in the lineup. Halpern was a minus-1 in 10:23 of ice time in the Caps' series-tying 2-1 win.
In 12 playoff games, Beagle has one goal and one assist.
NEW YORK -- Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman hurled three wadded up balls of tape in the general direction of Jason Chimera, who at the time was surrounded by media and doing an on-camera interview at his locker
The atmosphere wasn't as relaxed in the Rangers' room, but it wasn't exactly filled with human beings who were on edge and biting their nails.
What, the Caps and the Rangers worry about playing in a Game 7?
The decisive game Saturday in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal series doesn't appear to placing any added stress on these teams, who were both a loose bunch following their game-day skates at Madison Square Garden.
"It's important to be loose and joking around," said Rangers forward Mike Rupp, who will play in his sixth career Game 7. "Our team has a lot of that going on. I've found when I was younger I'd gauge off the older guys how relaxed they were. I think you can go out and be a little too fired up, so you have to channel that emotion in a certain way."
Once the throng of reporters cleared from Chimera, he fired the balls of tape back in Wideman's direction but hit fellow defenseman Mike Green, who fired a stern glare back at Chimera before cracking a smile.
Caps defenseman John Carlson walked toward his locker after leaving the ice to find center Nicklas Backstrom in his spot, fielding questions from journalists. The 22-year-old jokingly asked for a public-relations person to clear Backstrom from his locker before forcing him out of the area.
"I think we always like to have fun," Carlson said. "Everyone goes out and their morning-skate routines are different. Some guys need to take some things out of it, some people want to work on other things. I think everyone just goes out there and gets what they need to feel the best that night, and I think that for some guys, that's being relaxed."
If these teams are nervous about their seasons being on the line, they certainly aren't showing it.
NEW YORK -- The Capitals and Rangers both went through Game 7s in the first round, so playing another one Saturday night for the right to play in the Eastern Conference Final isn't anything new or jarring.
Each team has a few players that bring a "been there, done that" attitude.
New York's Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Rupp will also play in their sixth Game 7. Rupp is 2-3 in his Game 7 appearances, while Fedotenko is a perfect 5-0 with three goals and an assist in those contests.
"I heard one of those guys talking about it yesterday, that it's one of those special days," Rupp said. "It just feels different, like a birthday. It's a special day on the calendar. It's not an ordinary game. You approach it the same way, but we all know what a special night and opportunity it is to play in a Game 7."
Backstrom, Green, Laich and Ovechkin were part of the 2009 squad that rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Rangers in the conference quarterfinals. They were also there two weeks ago when the Capitals won Game 7 in Boston to eliminate the Bruins in the first round.
"We're calm, but we're excited," said Laich, who has a goal and three assists in five Game 7s. "We're ready to play. This group has been through a lot of them. This is our sixth and some people don't play three in their entire career. For whatever reason, we seem to find ourselves in these situations. You have to just trust your stuff and don't overcomplicate things."
NEW YORK -- Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and forward Marian Gaborik were the only two Rangers who didn't participate in the optional morning skate Saturday. Lundqvist has been known to take skip game-day skates if there is a full practice the previous, but this is the first time he's done it in the playoffs.
Rangers coach John Tortorella said Lundqvist is "just dandy" and will play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Rangers forwards Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) and Mats Zuccarello (wrist) are out. Dubinsky made a brief appearance in the locker room this morning without the aid of a boot or crutches and said he, "defers all questions to Torts" about his injury status. Dubinsky did not participate in the optional skate.
The only true question mark in terms of availability is Caps forward Jay Beagle, who will be a game-time decision due to a lower-body injury. He missed Game 6 of the series and did not participate in the morning skate Saturday.
NEW YORK -- It appears as though Capitals forward Jay Beagle will not be in the lineup for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Rangers on Saturday night, although coach Dale Hunter said "game-time" when asked about Beagle's status.
Beagle missed Game 6 of the series with a lower-body injury and did not participate in the game-day skate at Madison Square Garden. He was replaced in the lineup by Jeff Halpern, who had been a healthy scratch since March 23. Halpern was a minus-1 in 10:23 of ice time in the Caps' 2-1 win. Beagle hasn't skated with the team since blocking a shot with right leg during Game 5.
Capitals forward Alexander Semin was also absent from the team's optional practice, but Hunter said he Semin will be in the lineup.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Rangers aren't exactly lighting up the scoreboard on the way to what could be their first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals since 1997.
Entering Game 7 against the Washington Capitals on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers rank 11th in scoring at 2.08 goals per game and are last among the teams still remaining in the postseason.
The Rangers haven't scored more than three goals in a game since Game 1 against Ottawa and have been held to two goals or fewer in nine of 13 games.
Despite that avalanche of statistical information condemning the offense, Brad Richards doesn't see it as a problem heading into Game 7.
"It's really one game," Richards said. "If we win 1-0, it's the same as if we win 5-1. You play the game the way it's being played, and we're not going to abandon our structure just because people are writing about lack of scoring. We just have to win a game."
The Rangers haven't generated much offensively and neither have the Capitals in what has been an extremely tight series. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is a major reason the Rangers are still alive in the postseason with their lack of scoring, posting a 1.73 goals-against average.
Lundqvist said he wouldn't mind some additional support, but understands there isn't much room in the Caps' defensive zone.
"They've been playing pretty tight in their own end," Lundqvist said. "It's tough for us to create scoring chances. I hope that changes tomorrow and we come out and play our best game of the year."
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- It's been a roller-coaster month for Chris Kreider with more ups and downs than an elevator in a high-rise office building.
If the line combinations at Rangers practice Friday are any indication, the 21-year-old rookie looks like he's on his way back up again.
Kreider was back on the team's second line on the left wing with center Derek Stepan and right wing Ryan Callahan after spending the past two games playing limited minutes on the fourth line. A gaffe by Kreider in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Capitals led directly to a goal by Alex Ovechkin, and Rangers coach John Tortorella has reined in Kreider ever since.
Kreider was averaging about 17 minutes per game from Game 7 of the Rangers' first-round series against Ottawa up until Game 2 against the Capitals and played 26:17 in New York's 2-1 triple-overtime victory in Game 3.
But since the blunder in Game 4, Kreider hasn't cracked the seven-minute barrier. If he's back with Stepan and Callahan, that will likely change Saturday night in Game 7.
"It always takes a while, especially in this situation, for him to understand how we play, especially the defensive part," Tortorella said. "Really, we haven't overloaded him with too much. That's going to be a process he needs to go through next year. It doesn’t happen overnight. As we've gone through here, we've given him the foundation of it, not overload him, because you just don't want to turn him into a robot."
It took a few games for Kreider to earn Tortorella's trust after signing with the team right before the start of the postseason after winning two national titles in three years with Boston College. Kreider's debut in the NHL was accelerated when left wing Carl Hagelin was suspended for Games 3-5 of the Ottawa series for an elbow to the head of Daniel Alfredsson.
Kreider improved enough that he stayed in the lineup after Hagelin's return. He scored the winning goal in Game 6 vs. the Senators and had a goal and an assist in Game 1 vs. the Capitals. But Kreider hasn't registered a point since and knows he needs to be better.
"I think my role has been the same in my time that I've been here, regardless of the line I'm playing on," Kreider said. "They probably want more of the same, trying to win puck battles, trying to beat guys to pucks. I think I've learned things every single game regardless of the minutes I've played. It's little nuances, little details."
Kreider was a combined minus-4 between Games 3 and 5 of this series. He said his diminished role in recent games was a motivator to show he can be effective in Game 7.
"I think so," Kreider said. "I think it's kind of hard not to be motivated regardless of the situation here, playing big minutes or small minutes. I was pretty inspired and motivated throughout the playoffs."
With Kreider on the second line, forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who has zero goals in 13 games in the playoffs, was on the fourth line with Mike Rupp and John Mitchell. Here's how the lines all looked at practice Friday:
WASHINGTON -- The only Ranger who didn't participate in practice at Verizon Center on Wednesday morning was Brandon Dubinsky, who remains out with a lower-body injury. Forward Mats Zuccarello was once again participating, but he told reporters Tuesday that he is still about two weeks away from being ready for a game.
If the lines that Rangers coach John Tortorella used for Game 5 hold, this is what the team will look like when they take the ice for Game 6 with a chance to eliminate the Washington Capitals:
WASHINGTON --Brad Richards had his ups and downs during the regular season. He had two goals and no assists over 10 games in December and followed that with a stretch of three points in 12 games between January and February.
During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as is his modus operandi, he's been coming up big.
Richards is fifth in postseason scoring with 10 points in 12 games, including what could've been a season-saving goal with 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation to tie Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Capitals on Monday night. The Rangers would go on to win in overtime and take a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 scheduled for Wednesday night in Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
In his postseason career, Richards has 72 points in 75 games and had seven-game winning goals during the Tampa Bay Lightning's run to Stanley Cup Final in 2004 when he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Rangers coach John Tortorella is known for his short answers, but it was fitting in this case when he was asked what makes Richards so good in the playoffs.
"He’s got 'it,'" said Tortorella, who coached Richards for seven seasons in Tampa Bay.
"I've known him since he was a kid, when he broke into the League," he said, "and he's made big plays at key times."
With the Rangers staring elimination in the eye in Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators in the conference quarterfinals, Richards put his team ahead for good by uncorking a slap shot during a 5-on-3 power play that ripped past goaltender Craig Anderson.
Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko was Richards' teammate in Tampa Bay four seasons, including 2004, and knows what Richards means to the Rangers' chances of winning a Stanley Cup this year.
"He's a good player. That's why the team got him in free agency -- to help us win the Cup," Fedotenko said. "One guy can't do it, but he's a big piece to the puzzle. He knows how to compete in the playoffs."
WASHINGTON -- Facing elimination Wednesday night at Verizon Center, the Capitals will most likely come out with a strong push in the first period against the Rangers, who lead the Eastern Conference Semifinal series 3-2.
Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who has played in 100 postseason games, said the key to facing a desperate team isn't weathering the first-period storm; it's actually the opposite.
"I say initiate it and just go for it, not sitting and weathering anything," Fedotenko said. "It's do-or-die. The other team is desperate. That's always the hardest game to win for the team that's trying to close it out. I feel like that's the biggest game for everybody."
The Rangers are one of the League's youngest teams, but they channeled their emotions positively when facing elimination in two instances during the first round against Ottawa. That's nothing new for Fedotenko, who has won two Stanley Cups in his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins.
"For me, it's easier to control because I can focus on the bigger picture and whatever's happening, just deal with it," Fedotenko said. "For other people, maybe it's harder to control the emotion. Everybody wants to win."
NEW YORK -- John Tortorella didn't know much about Anton Stralman when the Rangers signed the defenseman in November, and he wasn't all that enamored with his game after he watched a few games.
The 25-year-old wasn't offered a contract by the New Jersey Devils after training camp, so Stralman returned to his native Sweden before the injury-riddled Rangers came calling. The offensive-minded blueliner isn't exactly the prototypical player for a Tortorella-coached team, and Stralman knew it.
"I kind of knew right away I had to change my game a little bit," Stralman told NHL.com. "I was all offense, no defense before. I know that's not going to work."
It took months or refining, educating, tearing down and building up, but Stralman has become a reliable portion of the Rangers' secondary blueliners. He usually starts a game paired with Marc Staal, but Tortorella tends to use sixth defenseman Stu Bickel so infrequently that Stralman finds himself with Michael Del Zotto at times.
Stralman's three goals lead all defensemen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I kind of kicked back on the offensive part and worked hard on the defensive part and tried to take it all in and buy into the system we play," Stralman said. "Along the way, when I felt more and more confident, I tried to get back to my old game without sacrificing anything at the other end. It's been a long road and a bit of a struggle, too, at some points. I'm happy with my game right now."
The hardest part for Stralman was developing the physical edge Tortorella holds so dear. It's taken a while, but Stralman has added a hip check to his repertoire that keeps onrushing forwards honest along the boards.
But while those booming hits brought the fans at Madison Square Garden to their feet, Stralman's offensive game began to slip. The hardest part for him was finding a balance, but he said Tortorella making him a healthy scratch later in the season helped him achieve that missing balance.
"That's been the most frustrating part," Stralman said. "I try to peel back on the offensive part and nail the defensive part. Along the way, I kind of lost the offensive part a little bit and that was really frustrating to kind of go look for it and try to find it. There was a lot of frustration going on. I got scratched there for a few games. It was kind of good to look back and try to figure out a way to go. Ever since that, I think I relaxed a little bit more to try to find my own game. It's coming along."
Stralman has two of his three goals in the postseason on the power play, but his goal during the Rangers' 3-2 overtime win Game 5 came at even-strength. Through 12 playoff games -- the first of Stralman's career -- he has three goals, two assists and is plus-2.
That's not too bad for someone who wasn't in the coach's good graces upon his arrival.
"He's been consistent defensively and offensively," Tortorella said. "That was my biggest gripe with him. If one was going well, the other part was stuck. To generalize, he needed to compete harder. That was the inconsistent part of his game. That's why he wasn't a complete player. That's something you can control as a player. I think he has answered that question. He has been a really good competitor for us."
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NEW YORK -- There was some positive news on the injury front for the New York Rangers on Monday morning at Madison Square Garden, as forward Mats Zuccarello skated for the first time since breaking his wrist March 23.
The forward took shots and participated in the team's morning skate in preparation for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Washington Capitals. The series is tied 2-2, but coach John Tortorella doesn't believe Zuccarello will be back in the lineup any time soon.
WASHINGTON -- The Rangers had a different look to their lines in their first practice Friday since winning in triple overtime in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Capitals.
The Rangers hold a 2-1 best-of-seven series which will continue Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center in preparation for Game 4 (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC). This is what coach John Tortorella showed at their final practice before Game 4:
Despite what Brooks Laich thought when he woke up Thursday morning, the Capitals are still alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I woke up and for some reason I thought the season was over. I had a deep sleep, a long, deep sleep," Laich told reporters after practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. "I woke up and thought the season was over. And it refreshed in my mind: we only lost one hockey game and it's two to one [in the series]. We're still in a good position."
The Capitals returned for a full practice Friday, two days after losing 2-1 in triple overtime to the Rangers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. Despite losing a marathon game on home ice, the wind isn't out of the players' sails. They know they were in this position in the first round against the Boston Bruins and rallied to win the series in seven games.
"We're in the same position we were in, in round one," Laich told reporters. "Somebody's going to win that hockey game and somebody's going to lose. Unfortunately we didn't win it; all it's going to do is motivate us more to win Game 4."
Coach Dale Hunter didn't have any changes in his lineup at practice from what he used in Game 3. Here's what the lines looked like Friday:
WASHINGTON -- While most people were focused on the eight-game goal drought of Marian Gaborik heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Rangers and Capitals, there was another flying under the radar.
In eight games, Rangers fourth-line forward John Mitchell not only had zero goals, but he had zero shots on goal.
Gaborik ended his slump by scoring in the third overtime, and Mitchell snapped out of his funk with five shots on goal. Based on their reactions, it's almost as if Mitchell felt the biggest relief from getting off the schneid.
"After probably Game 4 in Ottawa, I was like, 'Hey, I've got no shots,'" Mitchell said. "Then before you know it, another four games go by and I can't get a shot on net. It was nice. It was almost like a weight came off my shoulders when I got I shot on net. I was like, 'Oh, finally.' I was even thinking to myself, 'Maybe my first shot will go in.' It was kind of wearing on my mind."
Mitchell went into the overtime with the belief there are no bad shots at that stage of the game. He put one on net from long range during the second overtime, but it was a difficult save for Caps goaltender Braden Holtby.
"Yeah, you never know," Mitchell said. "I had a really good opportunity to put the puck on net and it hit his shoulder. I'm just going to try to keep firing. That seems to be the theme in overtime or just in playoffs in general. Throwing the puck at the net, it seems like shots could be going right along the ice and it finds its way in. Throwing the puck at the net is never a bad idea in any period."
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WASHINGTON -- After a triple-overtime marathon Wednesday night, no one would be upset if members of the New York Rangers simply drew the shades in their hotel rooms, put a do not disturb sign on the door and slept into the early afternoon Thursday.
It was certainly a day of rest for most of the team, but forward Brian Boyle and about a dozen players and staff members spent part of their day at Arlington National Cemetery, a 624-acre military cemetery in the nation's capital. About 14,000 servicemen and women have been laid to rest there, and the cemetery conducts about 30 funeral services per day.
"We're worried about winning and losing," Boyle said. "We put our heart and soul into it with everything we have. It means a lot to us, but it puts things in perspective when you see all those gravestones as far as you can see, all the lives that have been laid down for us to be doing what we're doing right now.
"We're pretty fortunate to get that opportunity. It's tough to describe. There's not a lot of words said while we're at the cemetery. Just taking it all in, and we really didn't know what to say to each other. It was impressive, for sure."
Coach John Tortorella said he has changed the way he uses his words in the locker room out of respect for members of the armed forces.
"I don't even like comparing what we do, and we shouldn't compare what we do," Tortorella said. "I've even tried to change my language in the locker room because I think it's wrong. I don't like talking much about anything outside the game, but that's a whole different realm. They cast a shadow over us. We're playing a sport because they allow us to. I don't even like comparing to what we do on the ice what some of those men and women have gone through."
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WASHINGTON -- The Rangers were granted a day off Thursday after their four-hour, triple-overtime 2-1 win against the Capitals that actually ended early Thursday morning. They hold a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series, with Game 4 set for Saturday at Verizon Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).
Coach John Tortorella spoke on a conference call about a wide-ranging assortment of topics, including the fatigue factor that comes with playing such a long game, the well-rested Henrik Lundqvist and how that's translating in his postseason play and Ryan McDonagh's mental toughness.
Here's everything Tortorella had to say:
Q: Is it possible for a team to have a cumulative fatigue in the playoffs or can you recover from game to game?
TORTORELLA: This is playoff hockey. To me, it's no big deal. There will be no problems with our club.
Q: You've talked about Marian Gaborik gets it -- he's a star player, but he understands the way he needs to play. Have you had to have any conversations with him during this playoff run or do you have faith he's going to turn it around like he did at the end last night?
TORTORELLA: I have conversations with a lot of players throughout the playoffs. That's part of my job and Gabby [Gaborik] is one of them. I've had conversations not just about scoring goals, but a lot of different things, like I do with all the players.
Q: You said after the game last night that all this win means is the Rangers have a 2-1 series lead. But can a game like that galvanize the club moving forward?
TORTORELLA: I think any time you win a game in the playoffs you swing momentum your way. Is it galvanizing? I don't think our team needs to be galvanized. I think it is. I don't think teams that are playing at this time of year don't have that. We found a way to win a game last night and we have a little momentum on our side because we won a game. Now we're just going to go about our business tomorrow and try to keep it on our side as long as we can.
Q: Besides giving the team a day off today, is there anything you can do as a coach to make sure there's no emotional hangover from a draining game like that.
TORTORELLA: No. I trust the team. I think our team has handled the ups and downs all year long and throughout the regular season with some of the things we've gone through as team, so there's not going to be any conversation on that at all. We'll report tomorrow for practice and just get ready for our next game.
Q: Can a win last night be something you can draw on in terms of overcoming adversity in the playoffs?
TORTORELLA: I think it helps for some of the younger guys who had never been in the situation and haven't played in much playoff hockey and going through a game of attrition like last night. I think that's a small scope of what needs to be done in the playoffs because playoffs is about trying to outlast your opponents and keeping momentum on your side. I think we found a way and did something really good things and had some struggles in some other areas. It's a good, positive note to get on the right side of it, so maybe down the road you lean on that. Again, it's one game. We did some good things.
Q: Have you ever been involved in a game like the one last night that involved stamina and the will to win?
TORTORELLA: I can't off the top of my head date it and put the games on, but I think all of us have been involved in those situations. Again, I'm happy the team found a way. I'm happy the way they handled themselves. I'm not surprised the way they handled themselves. They'll probably have to do it again, and they'll probably have to do it again in this series. It's a win for us. I just don't want us to get too carried away because this is part of it. This is what you have to do. I don't think it's anything special. It's a good lesson for us early.
Q: Do you think the extra rest that Henrik Lundqvist was afforded in the regular season can manifest itself in a game that lasts as long as that one did?
TORTORELLA: Sure. I think that Henrik's in a good spot. I think our team's in shape. I think we're mentally rested. I think what we did with Henrik during the year in those situations is why. I'm sure it helped him last night and he'll recover today just like everybody else on the team. This will not affect us. Can he get through it? You have to. This is just a little blip as far as what we had to go through last night. Most of that is a mental strain, not a physical strain.
Q: Would you have been as confident in balancing the two-goalie system without someone like Martin Biron as the other goalie?
TORTORELLA: That's why we signed Marty. The reason why we get to a situation where we're able to play a Game 7 in our building [against Ottawa in the first round] is really because of Marty Biron. He found a way to not only understand his role on the team and play the amount of games he played to give our number-one guy rest, but to also win. That's the important thing. We're not looking for a guy just to spell Hank. We need the goalie to win and that was huge for us this year.
Q: There were a lot of incredible performances from your team last night, but was Ryan Callahan leading by example?
TORTORELLA: That's what he does. I'm not sure if Ryan Callahan said two words on the bench last night during the game. It's what he does on the ice. He had a couple of huge blocks, he scores a power-play goal by being around the blue. He's finishing his checks. I say it over and over again -- that's who he is. One thing I did notice was in between periods it's one voice I could hear when we were going to those overtimes -- his. I think that's part of the maturity of him being a captain. I don't know if two years ago he would've felt comfortable in that situation, but he knows he has a responsibility. In between periods in that locker room, his voice was heard.
Q: John Mitchell had five shots last night after having none in the postseason. Was he noticeably better?
TORTORELLA: I know he concentrated on shooting the puck more. A couple of them were off-angle and not really good scoring chances, but especially in overtime, you're trying to put the puck to the net. I thought the biggest contribution he made was when there was on odd-man rush coming back in our end zone and somehow he had a major block. This was before we scored the winner. Forget about what you saw with shots on goal and faceoffs. He had a huge block. That line gave us some good minutes in the first 60 and through the overtimes. Mike Rupp had the best chance and he hits Brian Boyle right in the [rear end]. I mean, he settles the puck down and it's in the net, but he hits Brian Boyle in the [rear end]. They gave us some good minutes.
Q: Ryan McDonagh played 53 minutes last night and he's just a second-year player, but when did you start having that kind of trust in him?
TORTORELLA: He's probably our best-conditioned athlete. He played a lot of minutes, but he could've gone on for more. The most impressive part of him that made me put trust in him right away as a coaching staff was his mental approach. He makes a mistake or something doesn't go right, for a young player, it usually takes some time to get it out of his head, but he comes right back out there and makes that play at the same time. He's not afraid to make mistakes and recovers so very well if there is a problem. The next shift he's right back at it. He's turning into a top-notch defenseman for us and it will continue.
WASHINGTON -- The Rangers will likely roll out the same lineup they used against the Capitals in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Monday night when they take the ice for Game 3 on Wednesday.
"No, I don't really care either, honestly," Lundqvist said when asked if he noticed Ovechkin's 13:36 of ice time in Game 2. "I focus on my game and what we have to do and if he plays 20 or 10 or 5 or 30, I don't really care."
Rangers coach John Tortorella said forward Brandon Dubinsky, out with a lower-body injury, made the trip to Washington. He also said defenseman Stu Bickel, who hasn't played more than five minutes in the past six games and committed a turnover that led to a goal in Game 2, needs to be sharper or he'll find himself playing even fewer minutes.
"He'll be fine. He has to be," Tortorella said. "If he isn't, he'll play less."
With no changes expected, here's what the Rangers' lines and d-pairs will likely be at Verizon Center for Game 3 with the best-of-seven series tied 1-1.
WASHINGTON -- The New York Rangers were one of the NHL's best road teams during the regular season, going 24-12-5 away from Madison Square Garden for a League-best 53 points.
That success has spilled into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers went 2-1 at Scotiabank Place during the first round against Ottawa Senators and will look to keep it rolling at Verizon Center for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Capitals.
"I think our game is not a game that's relying on a lot of pretty, wide-open plays," Rangers forward Mike Rupp said. "When you play a certain style like that, there's a lot of things that can go wrong."
The Rangers can be described in a lot of ways, but pretty and wide-open will rarely be among them. They allowed 96 goals in 41 road games in the regular season, third-fewest in the League, and held the Senators to five goals in three road games during the first round.
"We have a foundation that is about the will and paying the price and playing a sound game we want to play," Rupp said. "I don't want to say that's easy, it's a mindset you have to have every night. It's much easier to resort to that than it is to making pretty plays all night."
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NEW YORK -- Before the Rangers fell to the Capitals 3-2 on Monday night in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series that is tied at 1-1, they erased a 2-0 deficit and were a bounce away from forcing overtime.
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto was a factor in all of it, picking up a secondary assist on Brad Richards' goal late in the first period and firing a shot in the third period that deflected off the leg of Ryan Callahan and became a game-tying power-play goal.
Capitals star Alex Ovechkin put his team in front with 7:27 left in the third period, but Del Zotto nearly tied the score in the final minute when his long blast rang off the post and deflected away from the net.
It was Del Zotto's second shot of the period that hit the post.
"He played very well," Rangers coach John Tortorella said Tuesday.
Del Zotto, 21, played 25:08 in Game 2, by far his biggest workload of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a sign he's earning more trust from Tortorella.
"Whatever minutes I get out there, I'm going to play my best," Del Zotto said. "I had some good chances and unfortunately I hit two posts there."
Del Zotto said he's grown more comfortable in his first postseason experience. In his first five games, he had just one assist but has three assists in his last four games.
"It's been fun. I've enjoyed every game," Del Zotto said. "I was happy with my game yesterday. It was a good confidence boost. But getting one late would've nice. But as it goes on, you get more and more comfortable and having more games under your belt definitely helps too. I'm just trying to be better every single day."
NEW YORK -- The good news for Brian Boyle after Game 2 against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Semifinals is that he felt no ill effects from a concussion that cost him the previous three games.
The bad news for Boyle was that he didn't exactly play his best game in the Rangers' 3-2 loss Monday. Boyle had one shot in 15:20 of ice time in his usual spot centering the Rangers' third line with Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust, but he was beaten cleanly on a faceoff by Nicklas Backstrom and didn't get to the point in time to block Alex Ovechkin's shot that became the game-winning power-play goal late in the third period.
"I stunk. I have to be better," Boyle said. "I'm not going to accept that, and coaches won't either."
Boyle had three goals in five games during the Rangers' first-round series with the Ottawa Senators, but none of that matters in the second round with the Rangers and Capitals tied 1-1 in their best-of-seven series.
"That's a long time ago," Boyle said. "That's a different series against a different team. If I want to be a big part of it, like I want to be, I have to play better."
The positive for Boyle was he felt fine physically and the concussion was in the rear-view mirror. He tested himself right away during Game 2 and finished the game with six hits.
"Physically, I'm good," Boyle said. "After I got banged around, we had some physical battles, I wasn't thinking about it too much. It was good. No ill effects."
NEW YORK -- Ask a member of the New York Rangers about the opposition, and the answer is always the same: "We're focused on what we can do, not on the other team."
But when defenseman Dan Girardi was asked if his 20:35 of ice time -- about six minutes fewer than his regular season average and fewest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- in Game 1 against the Washington Capitals had to do with Alex Ovechkin playing a postseason career-low 13:36, the answer was a resounding yes.
"I think that's a good explanation," Girardi said Tuesday after an optional practice at Madison Square Garden. "He didn't play a lot. I think that's the matchup we're trying to get. It's just how it worked out. That's how their coach wants him to play. You have to ask (Capitals coach) Dale Hunter."
Girardi and Ryan McDonagh have been the Rangers' shut-down defense pair all season, but with Ovechkin not on the ice to be shut down, it resulted in Girardi watching more than playing. The only other game this season in which Girardi played fewer minutes was in Chicago on Feb. 16. Girardi played just 18:55 as a tired Rangers team let a third-period lead slip away in a 4-3 loss to the Blackhawks.
Against the Capitals, Girardi played well and finished plus-1. Ovechkin's game-winning goal came on the power play after center Brad Richards took a penalty.
Despite Hunter's plan of attack, Girardi said he has to continue to play his game.
"I think I just got to not change anything, no matter how much he plays," Girardi said. "I think I just have to be ready on the ice no matter who's out there. When he's out there, I'll try to do a good job on him. Whoever's out there, I'll try to do a good job on him."
Rangers defenseman Marc Staal held Girardi's role in the previous two seasons as the team's No. 1 defenseman, but that changed when Staal missed the half of this season due to a concussion. During his comeback, Staal said the biggest adjustment was playing fewer minutes and having more time to think about his next shift, whenever it may be.
For Girardi, playing one game in that situation didn't change his approach.
"I just play my shift, go to the bench, and watch how the game's going and when I'm told to go again, I play," Girardi said. "It's nothing special for me."
Boyle was knocked out of the lineup with a concussion suffered during Game 5 of the conference quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators. He took part in the game-day skate Monday and reported feeling better, but was unsure of his status.
The Rangers have won three straight in his absence and will look to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with the Capitals.
In five games against the Senators, Boyle scored three goals. He will likely find himself centering the third line with wingers Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust.
NEW YORK -- The only question surrounding the Rangers' lineup for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Capitals is Brian Boyle, who has missed three games with a concussion but took part in the game-day skate Monday.
Boyle said he couldn't say for sure if he would play, but forward Brandon Dubinsky didn't participate in the practice and won't be in the lineup.
If Boyle feels ready, he'll return to the lineup in his customary role of third-line center. If not, the Rangers will probably ice the same lineup they did in Game 1 with defenseman Steve Eminger on the fourth line and John Mitchell moved up to Boyle's spot.
So here's an educated guess as to what the Rangers' lineup will look like if Boyle is back in the lineup.
As for the Capitals, Dale Hunter kept Alexander Semin on the fourth line for a second consecutive practice. Defenseman Jeff Schultz, who was a healthy scratch for Game 1, will replace Karl Alzner for Game 2. Schultz had played in Game 7 against Boston after sitting for three straight contests.
NEW YORK -- When Rangers coach John Tortorella arrived in February 2009, he was replacing Tom Renney, who has a well-earned reputation as a players' coach with a kindly demeanor that can endear him to those in the locker room.
Tortorella has been described as blustery, strict and strong in his beliefs, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist remembers meeting him for the first time and wondering how much of his reputation was true and how much was exaggerated rumors.
"Most of it was true," Lundqvist said. "Just how passionate he is. He can challenge you. I like that. I like to be challenged sometimes. It was refreshing to have a different style. I was excited and nervous at the same time. Just that first time he walked in and the first meeting. That's something I remember."
Tortorella guided the Rangers to the top of the Eastern Conference in his third full season with the club after an eighth-place finish last season and missing the playoffs two seasons ago. For that accomplishment, Tortorella was nominated for the Jack Adams Award on Monday along with Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues and Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators.
The 53-year-old Tortorella spent seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, guiding them to a Stanley Cup in 2004. He was dismissed following the 2007-08 season and briefly served as an analyst with TSN before coming to the Rangers for the final 21 games of the 2008-09 season.
Since then, Tortorella has sculpted a team in his image -- tough, physical, detail-oriented and willing to do whatever it takes to win. According to the Rangers' Brad Richards, who was with Tortorella during his entire time with the Lightning, very little has changed in his coaching style.
"The details and structure are all the same," Richards said. "Different personnel, but how the day-to-day things are ran and the accountability issues, all that's identical. You guys know him enough -- he's not going to change his ways too much."
Rangers center Brian Boyle came to the club before the start of Tortorella's first full season in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. Since his arrival, Boyle has developed into a reliable third-line center with above-average goal-scoring ability. The 27-year-old had just four goals in 71 games in his first year with the Rangers but has 32 goals over the past two seasons.
"He had a vision, an idea of how he wanted to run the team when he first got here," Boyle said. "I wasn't there for that, but his first full year I was here for. I think we responded pretty well. We understand him pretty well and I think he understands us pretty well. He's helped my game a lot obviously. He turned me into an NHL player. He's very deserving."
NEW YORK --Brian Boyle, who has missed the past three games with a concussion, took part in the Rangers' game-day skate Monday but could not say for sure if he would play in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Capitals.
"I feel pretty good," Boyle said. "I have no idea what's going to happen. This is my first time through it. Honestly, I don't know. It's ultimately my call, I think, to let them know I'm ready to play. After that, it's (coach John Tortorella's) call what the lineup is."
Boyle suffered his concussion during the first round against the Ottawa Senators when Chris Neil hit him early in the third period of Game 5. Boyle has been practicing during this series but he did not participate in the morning skate before Game 1 against Washington.
"It's tough to say right now. It's tough to tell," Boyle said. "It's tough because you don't want to focus too much on it and stress yourself out."
Boyle, who had three goals in the first round against Ottawa, pointed out the Rangers are doing just fine without him.
"Well, we're 3-0 since I've been out," Boyle said. "So it hasn't been that difficult (without him playing). It's stressful to watch, but the guys are doing a great job."
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NEW YORK -- In his young yet stellar career, Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby has lost two games in a row just once, when he went 0-2-1 in his fourth, fifth and sixth games in the NHL.
Since that hiccup, Holtby is 16-6-2 including the playoffs and hasn't dropped two straight. The 22-year-old will look to avoid his second straight loss to the Rangers after a poor performance in a 3-1 setback in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Saturday.
"One of the things I've always been taught is bad games happen," Holtby said. "The key to consistency is not letting it happen twice. Bad things happen, but always be prepared for the next one."
All three goals allowed by Holtby were stoppable shots. Artem Anisimov beat him on a wraparound in the second period, Chris Kreider's long slap shot eluded Holtby's catching glove, and Brad Richards squeezed a shot through the goaltender's legs from a sharp angle near the left post.
Holtby said he was treating the situation as a learning experience.
"You learn way more from losing than you do from winning," Holtby said. "There's a lot to learn from that game, not only mentally but technically on some of the goals. It's just a matter of inches how I played them. It could've been a different game."
The goal Holtby lamented the most was the game-winning goal by Kreider, who said he fired a long shot instead of using the open ice to for a breakaway chance because he was exhausted at the end of the shift. Holtby attacked Kreider expecting the 1-on-1 chance, but wasn't ready for the slap shot.
"It surprised me," Holtby said. "I was out further thinking he was going to come in on a half-breakaway type thing. He released it, had a shot that fooled me, good placement, but one I definitely want to have."
Game 1 marked just the second time Holtby played at Madison Square Garden, which is notorious for having dim lighting in comparison to other NHL arenas. It didn't affect Holtby in the regular-season finale when he made 35 saves in a 4-1 victory, and the goaltender said that can't be an excuse for not playing well.
"Most of the new buildings are really bright and really white," Holtby said. "It is harder for a goalie, but both teams play with it. It’s not like (Rangers goaltender Henrik) Lundqvist at the other end has better sights than I do. It's hard, but both teams deal with it."
NEW YORK -- Alex Semin was an effective player for the Capitals during their first-round, seven-game series win against the Boston Bruins. He had three goals in the series and was showing a commitment to the defensive side of the game.
Semin was out of sorts Saturday during the Capitals' 3-1 loss to the Rangers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series, however. He took two penalties, one of which was a retaliatory penalty after he was hit by Rangers captain Ryan Callahan that negated a power play, had zero points and was on the ice for Chris Kreider's game-winning goal in the third period.
On Sunday, Semin found himself demoted to the fourth line with Mike Knuble and Keith Aucoin at practice. Coach Dale Hunter said he was not sending a message with the move and defended his player's penalties.
"No, just mixing the lines up," Hunter said. "The one, he went for the puck and he hit a skate. The other one, both of them should've went. It was a cross check. If you watch the replay, the guy cross checked him first. But you can't retaliate. You just can't retaliate. The ref, he called one. He could've easily called two. But that's the way it goes."
Semin nearly scored during a second-period power play, but his wrist shot deflected off the arm of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and the crossbar. Hunter said he expects Semin to continue to have an impact on the power play.
Boyle (concussion) missed Games 6 and 7 of the Rangers' first-round series with the Ottawa Senators after taking a bone-jarring hit from Chris Neil in Game 5. Boyle practiced for the first time since the hit Friday and said his availability would depend on how he felt in the hours after practice.
Dubinsky (lower body) absorbed a hit late in Game 7 against the Senators and did not return to the ice for the game’s final 11 minutes and did not practice Friday.
Defenseman Steve Eminger is in the lineup for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in mid-March. Defenseman Stu Bickel has played forward at times this season, but Eminger took line rushes in pregame warmups with Mike Rupp and John Mitchell. Eminger has played some forward during his career.
Here's what the Rangers' line combinations looked like in warmups:
NEW YORK -- Rangers coach John Tortorella offered no updates on injured forwards Brian Boyle and Brandon Dubinsky on Satuirday afternoon.
Boyle (concussion) and Dubinsky (lower-body) will likely be game-time decisions as the Rangers face the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Madison Square Garden.
Boyle missed Games 6 and 7 of the Rangers' first-round series with the Ottawa Senators after taking a jarring hit from Chris Neil in Game 5. Boyle practiced for the first time since the hit Friday and said his availability would depend on how he felt in the hours after practice.
Dubinsky absorbed a hit late in Game 7 against the Senators and did not return to the ice for the final 11 minutes and did not practice Friday.
If one or both are unable to play, defenseman Steve Eminger could return to the lineup for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in mid-March. Tortorella could also move defenseman Stu Bickel to forward, a position he played earlier in the season. Forward John Scott, who has yet to appear in the postseason and hasn't played since March 9.
Boyle, who had three goals in five games against the Senators, rode a stationary bike Thursday morning and was cleared to participate in on-ice activities. As is the case when recovering from any concussion, how Boyle feels after exerting himself will determine his availability for Game 1 of the conference semifinals against the Washington Capitals on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
"This is my first day on the ice. I felt pretty good, but we'll see," Boyle told reporters at the Rangers' practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. "It's all how you react when you take another step, so I have no idea."
Boyle sustained his concussion when Senators forward Chris Neil delivered a huge body check just after Boyle released a shot early in the third period. Boyle returned to play several shifts after the hit, but eventually left the bench with about two minutes left and missed the final two games of the series.
The third-line center's absence became a rallying point for the Rangers in Game 6, as forward Brandon Prust fought Neil with the Senators leading 1-0 late in the first period. The Rangers would score the next three goals in a season-saving 3-2 victory in Ottawa.
"That means a lot to me," Boyle told reporters. "The teammate thing and the whole code and all that, that's great. But the whole friendship thing ... they were texting me and it felt really good. I felt blessed and loved and everything you can say. That was pretty awesome."
To fill Boyle's role on the third line, Rangers coach John Tortorella moved Brandon Dubinsky into that spot. But Dubinsky missed the final 11 minutes of Game 7 against the Senators on Thursday with a likely lower-body injury and did not participate in practice Friday.
When asked about the status of Boyle and Dubinsky, Tortorella told reporters, "No update."
If Boyle avoids a setback and Dubinsky isn't well enough, it's a simple lineup swap. But if both players are unavailable for the series opener against the Capitals, Tortorella could insert defenseman Steve Eminger, who hasn't played since March 15 due to an ankle injury, into the lineup. Eminger could act as a seventh defenseman or it could allow defenseman Stu Bickel to act as the 12th forward, a role he played briefly in the regular season.
NEW YORK -- For the third time in four years, the Rangers will face the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Things have not gone well for the Rangers in those matchups, both of which occurred in the first round. In 2009, the seventh-seeded Rangers let a 3-1 series lead slip away and lost in seven games. Last year, the eighth-seeded Rangers lost in five games to the top-seeded Caps.
The shoe is on the other foot this time around -- the Rangers enter the series as the No. 1 team in the East with the seventh-seeded Capitals as the underdogs.
None of that matters to Henrik Lundqvist, the losing goalie in those previous two encounters.
"The past is the past," Lundqvist said after the Rangers won Game 7 by beating Ottawa 2-1 on Thursday. "I don't think about what happened last year or whatever. It's different teams. We're in a different place and they're in a different place. I'm going to approach it the same way I approached this one, not overthink it or try to do too much. Their top guys are really talented and can make some big plays out of nothing, so we have to be ready."
The Caps have won four of the previous six postseason meetings between the teams. But both of the Rangers' wins have come in this round -- New York upset Washington in 1986 and beat the Caps in five in 1994 on the way to winning the Stanley Cup.
The teams split four games during the regular season, with team earning a victory in the other's building.
"I don't know honestly how much is going to change game-wise," Lundqvist said. "It's the playoffs. It's more physical. It might be similar, maybe not, who knows, but for me personally it doesn't really change. I'm going to approach it the same way and I have to play my game the same way. So, yeah, it doesn't change for me."
Both teams are coming off seven-game series and won't have much rest entering the conference semifinals.
"They went seven games as well and have very confident players," Rangers forward Marian Gaborik said. "We have to get ready for those guys and play our game. It's going to be another tough series."
NEW YORK -- Things went so well for the Rangers in Game 6 that they won't make any changes to their lineup for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
The Rangers won 3-2 in Game 6 to force the deciding game Thursday.
NEW YORK -- Brad Richards not only knows what it means to play in a Game 7, but he has plenty of experience in what it takes to win one.
As a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, his club came away with wins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, and Richards captured a Conn Smythe Trophy along the way. Along with Marian Gaborik, Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Rupp, Richards is one of four current Rangers to win a Game 7.
That experience will be valuable with the Rangers facing the Ottawa Senators on Thursday in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
"That's part of the process, is not losing your cool and channeling everything and using the energy in a positive way," Richards said. "I don't know how it will all work out, but everybody individually has to remember to do that and treat it more as an opportunity and fun and not think of any of the pressure or anything like that. There's pressure on both teams. It's Game 7. We both want to go on. We just want to have fun and enjoy it. It's a great time to be a hockey player when you get to play in a Game 7."
Several Rangers were part of the 2009 club that lost Game 7 to the Washington Capitals in the conference quarterfinals. The seventh-seeded Rangers held a 3-1 lead in that series before losing three straight to the second-seeded Caps.
This time around, the confidence level is different. The top-seeded Rangers are coming off a 3-2 road win in Game 6 and feel a lot better about their chances entering this Game 7.
"There's a little more positive energy in the group here winning the last game under pressure and going into this game compared to last time, when we let it slip," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "Once you're out there you're going to have the same feeling and approach it the same way, but right now I think the feeling is a little different, yeah, having won the last game under pressure."
Coach John Tortorella believes home-ice advantage is meaningless except for when it's a Game 7. He wouldn't delve into details, but said, "I just feel that we are at an advantage coming into our building for a Game 7."
The Senators probably feel differently. They went 2-0-0 at Madison Square Garden in the regular season and took two of three at MSG during this series. But the Rangers, who went 27-12-2 at home this season, believe all that goes out the window in a Game 7.
"We're in our comfort zone," Richards said. "I'd rather be here than anywhere else because it's comfortable. It doesn’t always mean you're going to win. It's still your building you've played in all year in front of your fans."
The Rangers are a young team with many of its players getting their first taste of a Game 7. Lundqvist said having the home-ice advantage -- and someone like Richards -- on which to lean can make a difference.
"I think it calms down a lot of guys to have been part of things like before," Lundqvist said. "They know what it takes. All year he has stepped up at critical moments and it just shows what kind of player he really is. Hopefully he can keep doing it here."
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NEW YORK -- If there were any concerns about Ryan Callahan's availability for Game 7 on Thursday night, he put them to rest this morning.
The Rangers' captain took part in practice in preparation for a do-or-die contest with the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden after being given a "maintenance day" Wednesday. Callahan blocked a shot with his hand during Game 6 and received attention from a trainer on the bench but stayed in the game.
Callahan showed no ill effects from the injury at practice and said he is "fine" for Game 7.
In other injury news for the Rangers, center Brian Boyle (concussion) did not participate in the game-day skate and will not be available.
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OTTAWA -- It didn't affect the outcome of the game, but it certainly affected the mood of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist afterward.
With the Rangers leading Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Ottawa Senators 3-1 in the final minutes, Jason Spezza ripped a shot on net that was stopped by Lundqvist. During the ensuing scramble around the net, the puck was jarred loose and swept into the net to cut the lead to 3-2.
OTTAWA -- The Rangers will be without Brian Boyle (concussion) for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.
Boyle did not make the trip to Ottawa after absorbing a bruising hit from Senators forward Chris Neil early in the third period of Game 5. In five games, Boyle has a team-high three goals.
The Senators used an incident in Game 1 when Boyle roughed Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who was also called for roughing on the play, to spark the team to victory in Game 2.
Can the Rangers use Boyle's absence in the same way?
"You use everything," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "I mean, you have to have a win to stay in the season. You don't need much more motivation than that. It's a big game for us. You don't want to see a guy like that go down. He's meant so much for us throughout the playoffs so far. It would be nice to come in here and get a win for him."
The Rangers have dropped two straight in the series and have just three goals in their past three games and just one at even strength. They fired 41 shots on Senators goalie Craig Anderson in a 1-0 loss in Game 5, but as well as the Rangers feel they played in that loss, Callahan said they need to find another level with Boyle out of the lineup.
"I think we have to find another level, especially tonight," Callahan said. "I think they're going to come out hard. We have to find a way to get that goal or that next goal. Tonight's a big game for us and we have to be ready for it."
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NEW YORK --Marian Gaborik has been extremely quiet during the Eastern Conference Quartefinals with one goal and two assists in four games against the Ottawa Senators.
Three points in four games sounds plenty good on the surface, but Gaborik's only even-strength point came on a goal in Game 1 and he picked up both assists during a pair of first-period power plays in Game 4.
Driving the net and scoring from the high-traffic areas were hallmarks of Gaborik's 41-goal regular season and he said Saturday morning before Game 5 against the Senators that he needs to be better in that regard.
"We have to do more," Gaborik said, "myself and everybody else."
Since jumping to a 4-0 lead in a Game 1 victory, the Rangers have been dominated at even strength with the Senators holding a 6-2 scoring advantage during 5-on-5 play. Both goals were scored by forward Brian Boyle while regular-season leading scorers Gaborik, Richards and Ryan Callahan have been unable to generate anything at even strength over the past three games.
Gaborik said it's about getting back to what made himself and the team effective in the regular season -- going to the net and scoring dirty goals.
"It's very tight," Gaborik said. "It's been tight for these four games and it's going to be even tighter tonight. It's going to come down to battles and whoever puts more pucks on the net and tries to find those rebounds and gets some ugly goals.
"You have to battle for every inch of the ice out there. It's going to be the same tonight. We just have to do it. Everybody has to go out there and work hard and try to win those battles and create some offense. It's not going to be a lot of odd-man rushes, 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s, so we just have to get some zone time and find something there."
Gaborik and Richards haven't been the same since linemate Carl Hagelin was suspended after his elbow to the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2. Hagelin, who worked well with the duo by tracking down the pucks and driving back defenders with his speed, won't be eligible to return to the lineup until Game 6.
"We obviously miss him," Gaborik said. "We have to find a way to generate more offense. We have to get in on the forecheck and try to be more aggressive. We have to try to hunt the pucks down and get some zone time."
Coach John Tortorella has mixed and matched his lines over the past two games and will likely break up Gaborik and Richards at the start of Game 5. During practice Friday, Gaborik was on a line with Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov while Richards was centering Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, combinations that generated pressure during the third period of Game 4.
Those units comprised the Rangers' top two lines during the early part of the season, and Gaborik hopes the magic he had with Stepan and Anisimov is there again.
"We had some good chemistry during the year," Gaborik said. "We have to get that started tonight, especially 5-on-5, create some offense and be responsible defensively. We have been successful with our forecheck, with our zone time when we played together, that's what we have to do tonight."
Gaborik said his two assists on two power-play goals in the first period of Game 4 were encouraging, but he hopes it carries over to 5-on-5, where the Rangers have been ineffective of late.
"Power play was good. Hopefully we can build on it," Gaborik said. "5-on-5, that's where we have to be better and try to get some offense there. Its' going to be a good game tonight and we're going to be ready."
NEW YORK -- Here's a look at the projected lineups for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.
Sens forward Jesse Winchester (upper-body) is out with Mark Stone likely making his NHL debut in his place. The Rangers shuffled their lines a bit during practice Friday but should have no lineup changes, but defenseman Steve Eminger (ankle) said he is now day-to-day and could return at any time.
NEW YORK --Mark Stone called his first trip to Manhattan a "culture shock."
He hopes his first NHL game, which will likely be Saturday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, won't be quite as jarring or unsettling.
The 19-year-old who has spent the past four seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL is likely to make his professional debut for the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with this best-of-seven series tied at 2-2. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound winger was taken in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Draft and was recalled by the Senators on Monday with no expectations of cracking the lineup.
But an upper-body injury to forward Jesse Winchester during Game 4 opened a spot in the lineup which will likely be filled by Stone, who skated on the team's fourth line at practice with Jim O'Brien and Zenon Konopka.
"I came to Ottawa with no expectations," Stone said. "I just wanted to be around that playoff atmosphere and if I can get in, that'll be something special for me. I just want to help the team the best I can."
Coach Paul MacLean wouldn't confirm his lineup, but talked about what Stone would bring to the table.
"We're keeping everything open at this point," MacLean said. "He's a good young player and has had a big year. He has a big scoring ability, good size. If we choose to use him, I'd like to have him on the power play."
Stone participated in the 2012 World Junior Championships for Team Canada and finished fourth in scoring with seven goals and three assists in six games. Stone's early time in Brandon was marred by a concussion and thumb injury during the 2008-09 season that limited him to 39 games.
Stone broke out in a big way over the next two seasons, with 37 goals and 69 assists in 71 games in 2009-10 and 41 goals and 82 assists in 66 games this season.
Making the jump from junior hockey to the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be daunting, but teammate Nick Foligno believes Stone has the temperament to do it.
"I remember doing it and I had a little more time with training camp and things like that, but he's been thrown in to the fire so to speak with the NHL playoffs," said Foligno, who went from the OHL to the NHL with a 28-game stint in the AHL in between at the start of the 2007-08 season. "He doesn't have a lot of break-in time. He's handled it really well. He's a quiet guy and he's a happy-go-lucky kid who's enjoying being here. I think that will bode well for him."
Foligno's advice, despite Saturday night being the most pressure-packed game of the season for the Senators, is to relax and enjoy the situation as much as possible.
"I think sometimes you come in and try to do too much," Foligno said. "I think we want to see him play the way that got him here. It's the only offer I can give him and just have as much fun with it as possible because it's a blast. There's a lot of pressure, but if you can get some fun out of it, it makes it really enjoyable and hopefully he'll do really well."
Alfredsson did not join the Senators for their trip to New York and will not play in Game 5 of the Senators' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Rangers.
Alfredsson has not played since absorbing an elbow to the head from the Rangers forward Carl Hagelin during the second period of Game 2. Hagelin was suspended three games for the hit and is eligible to return to the lineup for Game 6 on Monday.
NEW YORK -- During a conference call with reporters Thursday, Rangers coach John Tortorella was asked if his best players had been his best players through the first four games of his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Ottawa Senators.
"I'm not about to -- in Game 4 -- to start naming names," Tortorella said. "We've had some people, secondary players, play some good minutes."
Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, the team's top-two scorers in the regular season, have been almost non-existent at even strength since Game 1 of the series. They each have a goal and two assists, but they picked up their assists on the power play in the first period of Game 4. Richards' lone goal made it 4-0 during the third period of Game 1 when the contest was long since decided.
Following practice Friday at Madison Square Garden, a tight-lipped Tortorella added, "Our top guys, just like everybody, want to be our top guys."
Richards was more open to discussing the topic and agreed they need to put the puck in the net more, starting with Game 5 on Saturday night with the best-of-seven series tied at 2-2. The Rangers lost 3-2 in overtime in Game 4 after letting a 2-0 lead -- and golden chances to make it 3-0 -- slip away.
"Obviously, we just need to score more goals," Richards said. "It's 2-2 and we lose in overtime. (We need to score) more goals or make it 3-0 instead. We want to make big plays."
Captain Ryan Callahan has two goals and an assist in the series and said it's great that Brian Boyle (three goals) and Anton Stralman (two goals) have delivered, but the Rangers' top-flight guys need to be just that over the rest of the series.
"Your best players have to be at their best, especially this time of year. You need them," Callahan said. "You're going to have other guys step up and score some big goals like Boyle has and Stralman has two. For us to win the series, we definitely have to have our top guys going."
Since that four-goal barrage in Game 1, the Senators have outscored the Rangers 6-2 at five-on-five. The key to rectifying that problem, according to Callahan, is getting more traffic in front of Senators goaltender Craig Anderson.
"I think we just have to continue to get pucks to the net, get some bodies there," Callahan said. "I think he's seeing a lot of shots. If we do that and bang in some rebounds, I think we'll be successful."
OTTAWA -- After the Rangers won Game 1 of this series, Senators coach Paul MacLean took a different approach to Game 2 by inserting defenseman Matt Carkner and forward Zenon Konopka into the lineup.
The addition of two physical presences worked, as the Senators won Game 2 to even the series. It came at a price, as Carkner was suspended for Game 3 due to his one-sided, one-man bout with the Rangers' Brian Boyle in the first period.
The Rangers won Game 3, but all signs point to Carkner being back in the lineup for Wednesday night's Game 4 at Scotiabank Place. That doesn't necessarily guarantee a repeat of Game 2, according to the Rangers' Mike Rupp, who believes the bitterness seen in that contest is natural during the postseason.
"Playoff hockey is not really an open brand of hockey," Rupp said. "It creates a lot more confrontations. You're literally digging on ice that you want and everyone wants whether it's in front of the net, where the scrums are usually starting, or in the corners. Those little things can turn into a lot, so you just try to gain whatever you can."
Brandon Prust, who led the NHL in fighting majors this season with 20, said he won't know what to expect until the puck is dropped.
"Who knows? Every game is different," Prust said. "Obviously in Game 2, there were some more hot tempers I guess. You never know what's going to happen in every game. Every day is a new day. It's the playoffs, so anything can happen."
OTTAWA -- Best of luck getting a straight answer from either coach in this series about their lineups, but it doesn't appear the New York Rangers will be making any changes in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Senators.
OTTAWA -- Rangers coach John Tortorella is famous for his propensity to shuffle lines, but he hasn't had to do much of that since the middle of March.
He will have no choice but to make some changes for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Senators, which is tied at 1-1. Carl Hagelin, a staple of the team's top line for the past month, will begin serving his three-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2 on Saturday.
The Rangers held an optional practice Monday morning and did not reveal any line combinations, so what follows is complete guess work. Both Chris Kreider and John Scott, forwards who have been healthy scratches the first two games of the series, were off the ice early. Usually, healthy scratches will stay on late and put in extra work with the coaches.
So here's some pure speculation on the Rangers' line combinations. Kreider played a little bit with Derek Stepan during the World Junior Championship in 2010, so that could be a landing spot for him if he plays. Check back during pregame warmups, set to start around 7 p.m. ET, for something more substantial.
NEW YORK -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs have no bearing on whether Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson wins the Norris Trophy this season, but the 21-year-old looked like anything but one of the NHL's best blueliners Thursday night.
Karlsson was on the ice for two of the New York Rangers' first three goals, including Brian Boyle's game-winner in the second period. Karlsson was beaten to a loose puck by forward Artem Anisimov and was unable to block Boyle's shot from the slot.
With the Senators down 1-0 in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, Karlsson knows he and his teammates have to be better in Game 2 on Saturday.
"We have to step it up a bit here if we want to be a contender to win this series," Karlsson said. "We didn't skate enough. We didn't compete enough. They out-battled us in a lot of areas. We have to be a lot tougher going into their net and making it hard for Rangers goaltender (Henrik Lundqvist) to make saves. It's one of those games where it didn't click for us and hopefully we can play better tonight."
Senators coach Paul MacLean said Karlsson can be better with and without the puck.
"He needs to skate. When Erik skates, he's a dominant player," MacLean said. "That's his No. 1 strength. We need to make sure he's skating."
In Game 1, Karlsson had zero points, three shots and was minus-1 in 24:23 of ice time. It was just the 11th time this season he was held scoreless and finished the game as a minus player; Rangers All-Star defenseman Dan Girardi accomplished that 17 times.
NEW YORK -- Senators coach Paul MacLean felt his team played a solid 54 minutes in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Rangers on Thursday, save for a six-minute stretch in which the Rangers scored three goals to roll to a 4-2 victory.
MacLean won't make any lineup changes for Game 2 on Saturday night because of that showing, but he is considering loading up his top line.
Spezza, Michalek and Alfredsson were the Senators' three top scorers among forwards, combining for 96 goals and 107 assists, but they rarely played together during the regular season. The lack of familiarity won't be a problem if they play together against the Rangers, according to Spezza.
"We've played together at times this year and we have instant chemistry," Spezza said. "Me and Alfie played a lot of years together and we don't always play together now to start games, but we do a lot of times throughout games. He's a real smart player. We read real well off each other. If that's what we go with, there's never adjustment needed."
Foligno believes shuffling the lines will also serve to make the other three lines more dangerous.
"I think it makes the other team be more aware of our first line. They're pretty potent offensively," Foligno said. "It spreads it out a little more. We have a lot of depth and guys can step in. It shows the depth we have on this team. We're looking to have a really good night with Condra and Turris and hopefully all the other lines can step up as well."
MacLean said even if he doesn't open the game with the lines he showed at practice, he could go to them later.
"We're not certain yet if we're going to start the game that way," MacLean said. "We're looking at that, but it's also something we can go to during the game that we're comfortable with."
If the Senators decided to put their big three on a line, they can expect to face Rangers shut-down defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi on every shift. Both Senators goals in Game 1 came with Rangers defenseman Marc Staal on the ice.
NEW YORK --Brian Boyle was so desperate to score a goal this season that during a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 13 that he tried to redirect a knee-high slap shot with his skate.
After scoring a career-best 21 goals last season, he slumped to 11 this season, saying he felt like there was a "force field" on the net at times.
The third-line center has figured out a way to break through that force field of late. His game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night was his sixth goal in his past 10 games.
Boyle said he came into this season not just looking to match his 21 goals last season.
"I wanted to exceed it," he said. "But it's tough when it doesn't happen. But it's been good the last few weeks, offensively anyways. I want to keep building. There's other areas of my game that I can still improve upon."
Boyle said while he was snake-bitten at times, he didn't start playing his best hockey until later in the season.
"The second half of the year, there were some tough bounces," Boyle said. "The first half, I could've played a lot better."
The 20-year-old Kreider, who joined the Rangers on Wednesday after winning a national championship with Boston College as a junior, won't likely be in the lineup anytime soon. The Rangers' coaching staff is working with Kreider to improve his game away from the puck, and coach John Tortorella felt there was no better to observe than Hagelin.
The rookie used his speed to close the gap on Ottawa's Nick Foligno in the third period and steal the puck to set up Brad Richards for a goal that made it 4-0. It was one of the many things that caught Kreider's eye at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
"He makes defensemen uncomfortable," Kreider said. "He's got an unbelievable first step. He's the best skater in the League. He did a really good job of harassing the defensemen. It led to two goals. It definitely works."
Hagelin didn't pick up a point on Marian Gaborik's second-period goal that made it 2-0, but his pressure led to a turnover by Jared Cowen that resulted in the goal. It was the type of play that Kreider took note of -- literally.
"I was just trying to jot down whenever he used his speed off the puck to pressure the defensemen and get up ice," Kreider said. "He used it in various situations. I went back today and looked at it on tape in a couple of situations."
Kreider said it was the first time that he can remember being a healthy member of a team and not participating in the game. He also said he felt nervious throughout the Rangers' Game 1 victory.
"I found myself jumping out of my seat too when we were scoring," Kreider said. "I feel emotionally invested."
Coach John Tortorella isn't answering questions about Kreider, but it appears the winger is a long way from getting into a game barring injury. The Rangers received contributions throughout the lineup in Game 1, getting goals from each of their top three lines.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- One thing was certain among the New York Rangers on Friday -- they expect the Ottawa Senators to be better in Game 2 than they were in Game 1.
That could be disconcerting, as the Senators didn't play poorly in the series opener.
The Rangers used three quick strikes to blow open a one-goal game and roll to a 4-2 victory Thursday in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. But up until that offensive outburst, the Senators were pressing for the tying goal midway through the second period and were a goal away from changing the complexion of the contest.
"They played really well last night," Richards said. "There was a momentum swing in the game we were able to grab, but they could've grabbed it too. We have to realize we're going to have to be a lot better.
"They had the puck a lot in the second period. If they score a goal and make it 1-1, it might be different."
The Senators held a 22-12 shots advantage at the halfway point of the game and fired home two goals in the third period to make things interesting. The game had long since been decided by the time the Senators made the score respectable, but that late surge combined with the first half of the game definitely grabbed the Rangers' attention.
"They have a great team over there," forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "They've got five or six guys that are world-class talents and can be dangerous with the puck. We expect them to be at their best tomorrow. We have to be ready to elevate our game and match their intensity."
NEW YORK -- There wasn't an NHL team that had more of a chance to use distractions as an excuse for poor play this year than the New York Rangers.
They opened the season with a two-week trek through Europe as part of the NHL Premiere Series. Upon their return to the United States, their home, Madison Square Garden, was still undergoing renovations, which meant another long road swing through Western Canada.
That wasn't the end of it, as the Rangers welcomed HBO's "24/7" cameras into their lives for a month in the buildup to the Winter Classic, another event that takes players out of their routines.
Rangers coach John Tortorella said Thursday that when his team's hockey life finally returned to normal in January and there wasn't a letdown, he knew he was involved in something special.
"When they left, that's when we gained some normalcy in our room," Tortorella said. "We still have three and a half months to play, and I just watched how our guys went about their business. I was worried about a letdown when the cameras left. I was happy with the way we won (the Winter Classic). That really helped our confidence, and then we just kept on going. That's when I felt we could do something."
The Rangers went on to win the Atlantic Division and capture the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and Tortorella said it all started with the trip to Europe to open the season.
"I think that really helped us as a team and to speed up the process of trying to win consistently and being consistent," Tortorella said. "I thought we were consistent in how we went about our gameday business. That's one thing about this group. Not once this year -- and coaches do it all the time -- did we have to go out there and kick the hell out of them because you didn’t get enough out of them the night before to just make sure you get the message across."
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Only two teams from Canada reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year -- the Senators and the Vancouver Canucks. If Canada is looking to pull for one of the two, forward Chris Neil is fine if the nation wants to get behind the Senators.
"We've been there before, going to the Cup Final in '07, so it's fun whenever the whole country gets behind you and cheers for you," Neil said. "We don't really look at it like that. It's the group of guys in here that we pay attention to. You try not to pay attention to what's going on on the outside, who's cheering for who. You just hope when you go out, you're going out and working hard. If you're doing that, fans will come out and support you and cheer loud and get them on your side."
Neil said he didn't get a chance to see the Canucks lose 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their series late Wednesday night.
"I was in bed," Neil said. "I didn't even really watch it. I was getting rested up for tonight."
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NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers will ice the same lineup as they did in their regular-season finale, while the Ottawa Senators will insert Chris Neil into the lineup for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Thursday.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers coach John Tortorella rarely addresses the opposing team. On Wednesday, however, he talked openly about how his team needs to prepare to face the Ottawa Senators in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series that starts Thursday.
Staying out of the penalty box, Tortorella said, is paramount against the Senators.
"They have a very good power play," Tortorella said. "We need to stay within ourselves as far as just going about our business, not getting involved in any antics and keeping our discipline. Discipline is a huge part of the game in the regular season -- it's two-fold come playoffs. We've had many conversations about how we have to handle ourselves."
"They have a great power play," captain Ryan Callahan said. "The key for us is going to be staying out of the box. Our penalty kill is going to have to come up big when needed.
The Senators can also be dangerous at even strength, possessing the ability to capitalize on neutral-zone turnovers. Those mistakes plagued the Rangers in their losses to the Senators this season, and it's something they know they need to remedy starting Thursday.
"We know they beat us, we know they have great players," forward Brian Boyle said. "They have a great offensive lineup. They can transition the puck well and burn you if you turn it over. We know that. I think everybody knows that."
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is familiar with the abilities of fellow Swedes Alfredsson and Karlsson and isn't exactly enthusiastic about having to face them.
"I don't know if I'm looking forward to it," Lundqvist said. "They're great players and I skate with them a lot. I know what type of players they are. They have a lot of skill. I think we're feeling good in here. We're excited to start."
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Brad Richards signed a nine-year, $60 million contract this summer to play for the New York Rangers because he wanted a chance to have success in the spring.
The 31-year-old spoke Wednesday about how he doesn't want to prove himself in the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- he just wants another chance to win, an opportunity that's been a rarity since winning a Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004.
"I don't know if it's prove my worth, I just want to win," Richards said. "I'm in my 30s now. The window is slowly closing. I got to win when I was very young, and I thought I'd get some more shots at it by now. I kind of thought, this will happen more often. It makes you appreciate it. It's nothing to do with the worth -- I want a chance to win.
"You don't know how many shots you've got. We've got a great team and have done a lot of great work this year. You don't know and can't say next year we'll be right back where we are. You don't know. Tons of things can happen over the summer. It's an opportunity for me. But I look at it like that."
When the Rangers face the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series on Thursday, they will do so with a team that doesn't boast much in the way of postseason experience. Richards said that this team reminds him of the young Lightning team that beat the Calgary Flames in seven games in 2004, and that youth and inexperience don't matter much today.
"This team basically got a look at it last year, some of the young guys," said Richards, who was referring to the Rangers' five-game loss to the top-seeded Washington Capitals in the first round. "Some of the other guys have been in it more than that. So they've probably got a little more than we had in Tampa. There's a lot of young teams in the League that win now. Experience is great, but you have to gain it by winning and getting to the playoffs."
Coach John Tortorella, who was behind the bench in Tampa when Richards also won the Conn Smythe Trophy, likes his team's "innocence" coming into the playoffs.
"I think that's a positive for us," Tortorella said. "I'm really trying to allow the team to not overthink a bunch of stuff and continue to go on with our business. The thing I like about this group here is we've had a lot of different things go on with our club right from the get-go and they have handled themselves very well. We're ready to play. I think they've handled themselves very well the past few days."
Tortorella also warned that this could be the best chance for some of his players to win a Stanley Cup.
"You just never know if you'll have an opportunity again to do it," Tortorella said. "That's why we tell our guys when you get into these type of situations, you need to try to enjoy it, too. Who knows what goes with your career. You may never get another whack at it. We're going to be ready to play. There's no question about that. But I want these guys to enjoy this time of year."
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The only person who is happier about Ryan Callahan being healthy for this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs than the man himself is probably coach John Tortorella.
"It's nice to have him with a uniform on and not watching," Tortorella said Wednesday, as the Rangers had their final full practice before Thursday's game against the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
It was in Game 80 last season when Callahan blocked a slap shot by Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. Callahan suffered a broken foot and could only watch as the top-seeded Washington Capitals blitzed the Rangers in five games.
This time around, Callahan is healthy and looking forward to contributing after he was unable to last year.
"This is what you play 82 games for, is this time of year," Callahan said. "Last year was hard for me, missing the playoffs not being able to be part of it. I'm excited for it this year."
In his first year as Rangers' captain, Callahan had a career-best 29 goals and 54 points. He's a fixture on the penalty kill and is a leader when it comes to hitting and blocking shots.
"I look up and down the bench for him all the time, all situations, and now he had developed into quite a leader as far as his next progression that he's gone through this year," said Tortorella, who also praised Callahan's job performance as a captain.
"I think when you get into that type of situation, and he's still a young man, wearing the 'C,' I wasn't sure how he was going to be coming to me as far as our relationship and communicating through that," Tortorella said. "I've gotten to know him better. I think that's very important with your leaders. It's a bit of a conduit from coaching staff to player. That's gone along really smoothly. He doesn't say much. It's gone really well that way."
Defenseman Dan Girardi is happy to have a team that's entirely healthy, and admitted it was a big loss last season to play without Callahan.
"Losing a guy like that going into the playoffs is not good, but I thought we did a good job rallying around it," Girardi said. "I think this year having him, that's going to be awesome."
"He's a big piece," forward Marian Gaborik said. "We're glad he's there and with us and have a healthy team going in. It's very important to have that. We missed him last year. This is a different situation going into the playoffs as a healthy team."
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The New York Rangers on Tuesday agreed to terms on an entry-level contract with Boston College's Chris Kreider, the 19th pick in the 2009 NHL Draft.
The 20-year-old forward will report to Rangers practice Wednesday and is eligible to participate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
Kreider's deal is for three years, but the first year of the contract will be burned when he arrives at practice. TSN's Bob McKenzie is reporting Kreider did not receive a signing bonus for this season, but he will receive bonuses if he plays in this year's postseason.
The 6-foot-3, 217-pound Kreider possesses the size and speed necessary to make the immediate jump from the NCAA to the NHL. In three seasons at Boston College, the Boxford, Mass., native had 49 goals and 43 assists in 114 games and was part of this year's national championship squad.
Kreider had 23 goals and 22 assists in 44 games as a junior.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather has said in the past that he believes Kreider can contribute right away at the NHL level, but it remains to be seen how coach John Tortorella will work him into his lineup, if at all, during the postseason. The Rangers finished first in the Eastern Conference and lack any serious injuries to their forwards right now.
In a game Thursday in Pittsburgh, Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was assessed a five-minute major penalty for kneeing Stepan late in the contest. Stepan was so slow to get off the ice and missed practice Friday, but he will be in the lineup against the Washington Capitals on Saturday night (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at Madison Square Garden.
Tortorella was fined $20,000 by the League for his comments that followed the game in which he called the hit "cheap" and "dirty" and offered no response to the fine Saturday.
"I wonder what would happen if we did it to their two whining stars? Wonder what would happen?" Tortorella said Thursday, referring to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. "So I'm anxious to see what happens with the League. There's no respect amongst players. None."
Tortorella moved on from the incident, saying his team his highly motivated to finish with the most points in the NHL.
"I want us to win that trophy," Tortorella said. "I think that's a part of our motivation. I'll tell you that right now. You check off the division, check off the conference. There's two other checks that need to be done here. One is this Presidents' Trophy, and the next is the real deal. We're looking to get No. 3 here tonight."
Lundqvist was dealing with a swollen right arm after a shot by Claude Giroux of the Flyers caught the goaltender in an unprotected area on Tuesday night. Lundqvist received the night off against the Penguins, but never missed a practice and will start against the Capitals.
NEW YORK -- With the Washington Capitals securely in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's not as though 22-year-old Braden Holtby has the weight of the world on his shoulders against the Rangers on Saturday night.
But with a Southeast Division title within reach -- a Washington win coupled with a regulation loss by the Florida Panthers would make if five straight for the Capitals -- Holtby is facing some pressure. If the Capitals lose, they will be right back at Madison Square Garden as the No. 8 seed for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the top-seeded Rangers.
Holtby is 3-2-1 this season and will be filling in for Michal Neuvirth, who is day-to-day with a leg injury that coach Dale Hunter said isn't serious, and Tomas Vokoun, who is out with a groin injury. Holtby played well in road games against the Flyers and Red Wings in March, something Hunter feels will help Holtby against the League's top team.
"He went to Detroit and played well, he went to Philly and played well, and those are pretty hard buildings to play in," Hunter said. "There was a lot at stake. He came up big for us."
The Rangers will win the Presidents' Trophy for the first time since 1993-94 with a win, which means the Capitals won't have anything handed to them.
"We still have stuff on the line, so do the Rangers," Hunter said. "It's one of those games when everyone is going to be battling like any other game. We have to play our best because they're well-balanced, they have good goaltending."
The only lineup change for the Caps will be Joel Ward replacing Mike Knuble. Ward has been out since blocking a shot against the Flyers on March 22. Knuble has just two assists in his past eight games and played just 6:43 in the Capitals' 4-2 win against the Panthers on Thursday.
The 30-goal scorer was skating on a line with Adam Henrique and Alexei Ponikarovsky and showed no visible signs of the lower-body injury that sidelined him. Coach Peter DeBoer said afterward that he expects to have Clarkson back in the lineup Thursday night against the Red Wings.
The Devils have two games remaining -- in Detroit on Thursday night and home against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday -- and still have a chance to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference by winning those games and having the Philadelphia Flyers lose their final two games in regulation.
DeBoer simply wants to avoid injury and keep the Devils, who have won four straight, on the right track with the playoffs a week away.
"The priorities are play well, keep the confidence level high, and stay healthy," DeBoer said. "Obviously winning games is important. It'd be nice to be the fourth team in the division with 100 points. But those are secondary motivators. For me, those are the three main things -- keeping our structure, playing well and staying healthy.
"I don't have any plans on resting anybody right now."
NEW YORK -- New York Rangers coach John Tortorella doesn't care that his team can clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference on Sunday night.
When asked if it means anything to get it done immediately against the Boston Bruins and if he discussed the situation with his team, he answered in the negative three times before walking out of the media room at Madison Square Garden.
Henrik Lundqvist will make his season-high ninth consecutive start for the Rangers.
The Rangers need just one point after the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on Sunday afternoon at Consol Energy Center. In order for the Penguins to catch the Rangers, the Penguins must win their final three games and the Rangers must lose their final four all in regulation.
The Bruins can clinch the Northeast Division with a victory. With a win, the Bruins will guarantee themselves the second seed in the East.
Lundqvist stumbled a bit during March, dropping three of four starts before going 6-1-0 in his last seven starts with a 2.11 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.
Tim Thomas will make the start for the Bruins. Much like Lundqvist, he too has found his game of late, going 4-1-1 in his last six starts and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of those starts.
Here are the likely lineups for tonight's game, which will be aired on NBCSN and TSN2:
Lundqvist will make his season-high eighth-straight start when the Rangers host the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) at Madison Square Garden on Friday. The Rangers hold a five-point edge on the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Eastern Conference, with each team having five games remaining.
Coach John Tortorella has given varying answers this season about his goaltending situation, saying at times he doesn't have a No. 1 goaltender, that he has two goaltenders who he doesn't mind playing, and that he doesn't chart out a schedule for when his goaltenders are going to start.
If Lundqvist starts the Rangers' final five games, he'll finish the season with 63 starts, the fewest since he became the full-time starter in 2006-07.
But with home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs within reach, Lundqvist suddenly has become a very busy man.
"I think it's mentally and physically, you have to adjust a little bit," Lundqvist said about returning to his usual routine. "It's what I'm used to in the past. I play a lot, I feel good. You get a little more relaxed in between games because you're playing all the time, you're in it. Sometimes when you sit out, you might overthink it and come back a little tense. But now I just know I'm going out there to play.
"Right now, it's an exciting time. I love being out there."
As the regular season winds down and the playoffs begin, off-day practices become less frequent, so it's far easier to be at full capacity for a game now than it is earlier in the season, according to Lundqvist.
That perhaps was a problem earlier in the month, when Lundqvist was struggling. He spoke at length about wanting to improve his game and become sharper for the postseason. With fewer chances to work out the problems in practice, he's been doing it in games and said he is starting to feel better about his overall play.
"The last few games, I've played pretty good," said Lundqvist, who is coming off a 3-0-0 road trip and has won five of his last six starts. "I've played the way I want to play. When you're winning, you always feel a lot better. Technically, the last two have been pretty good, so I try to go from that."
Cunneyworth said defenseman Tomas Kaberle still isn't ready to play and that forward Scott Gomez, who skated Wednesday, could get into a game before the end of the season but it won't be against the Rangers.
The Rangers will also ice the same lineup as they did in Winnipeg on Wednesday, with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist making his season-high eighth consecutive start. He will be opposed by Carey Price.
NEW YORK -- Among starting goaltenders in the NHL, Henrik Lundqvist ranks first in goals-against average (1.87), save percentage (.934) and is tied with the Kings' Jonathan Quick for the League lead in shutouts with eight.
Following the Rangers' 2-1 overtime win against the Red Wings on Wednesday in which he made 26 saves for his third win in four starts, Lundqvist said he wanted to sharpen his game and improve in some areas that need work.
Yes, the presumptive favorite for the Vezina Trophy feels like he should be playing better as the Rangers get set to face the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night on Madison Square Garden.
"I need to be more focused and make better decisions," Lundqvist said. "It's tough to play perfect games. Sometimes you make poor decisions and it costs you, and sometimes it doesn't cost you. That's what you're always trying to do. You're trying to play a perfect game where you make good decisions all the time and don't put yourself in trouble by making a bad read. That's what it comes down to. It's not technically how I can change. It's the way I focus. Just the keep the game simple. It's exciting. I feel like getting we're getting closer. Sometimes that helps you not overthink. You just go out and play."
March hasn't been the best month so far for Lundqvist. He allowed 16 goals in five games to start the month before being hit with the flu bug after a 4-3 win against the Islanders on March 19. Since returning, Lundqvist has looked more like himself, going 2-1 with a 1.65 GAA and .927 save percentage.
Exhaustion hasn't been a problem in the past for Lundqvist, and he said it won't be again this year. Even if he starts in all nine remaining games for the Rangers, those 63 starts will be his fewest since taking over the No. 1 goaltending job in 2006-07. To make up for the diminished playing time, Lundqvist said he'll use practices, as rare as they are this time of year, to stay sharp.
"When you're out there you need to go hard, get good habits," Lundqvist said. "You don't want to be out there and cheating because you're tired. I'm not tired, so that's a good thing.
"Going into the last few weeks, you don't really feel tired. When you don't practice that much, you can save a lot of energy for the games. I think biggest difference year was in December and late-November, not playing as much. Maybe I would've been a little tired (in the past at that time). But this time of year, you're never really tired."
Lundqvist started the Rangers' final 26 regular-season games last season due to a broken collarbone suffered by backup goaltender Martin Biron. The Rangers made the playoffs, but were ushered out the door by the Washington Capitals in the first round in five games.
Since it wasn't a problem last year, Lundqvist doesn't see fatigue being a problem this year.
"I felt great. I wasn't tired," Lundqvist said. "Going down the stretch you're so focused. Especially if you're winning and doing well, I think that helps. You're relaxed. But I wasn't tired going into the playoffs. But that was in April. Our goal is to play in June. But right now, I pretty much feel the way I always do this time of the year."
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NEW YORK -- For Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold, Friday night's matchup with the New York Rangers doesn't have any added meaning as a potential 1 vs. 8 matchup in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in a few weeks.
Instead, Leopold is focused on the fact the Sabres have control over their playoff destiny with eight games to play. They are one point behind the Capitals for the eighth spot in the East, but if the Sabres win the rest of their games, which includes one against the Caps, they will be in the playoffs.
"We look at it is as controlling our destiny. We have that opportunity if we win out, so this is just another one of those games coming down the stretch we need to get," Leopold told NHL.com. "We're playing one of the best teams in the League right now and have definitely had our number this year (the Rangers have won all three meetings). We need the two points desperately."
The Sabres are in a similar position to last season, when a 19-20-5 start was followed by a 24-9-5 finish to earn a playoff berth. This year, the Sabres' slow start was more about injuries to key players -- goaltender Ryan Miller, defenseman Tyler Myers and center Jochen Hecht just to name a few -- but their current 15-5-3 run has them knocking on the postseason door once again.
"We had a lot of injuries this year. You don't want to use it as an excuse, but it's a fact," Leopold said. "You look at that, and it's definitely played a role in getting us a little bit behind the 8 ball. We've totally climbed our way out of this when everyone said we couldn't and put ourselves in a good position. With eight games remaining, we have a good opportunity if we get the right amount of points, we can get to the magic number and make the playoffs."
NEW YORK --Ruslan Fedotenko is one of the few veterans with Stanley Cup-winning experience on a young Rangers team poised to make a deep run in this year's playoffs.
Yet for the second game in a row, the 33-year-old will find himself as a healthy scratch when the Rangers close their seven-game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden.
Coach John Tortorella wouldn't use specifics Friday morning in discussing Fedotenko, but knows his value in the postseason.
"I'm not going to broadcast it to you guys," Tortorella said. "I want to make a change in the lineup. I still have a tremendous about of faith in Feds, as far as what he does. He's been there. He's been successful there. He understands the intensity of it, how it ratchets up. I think it's something that's important, especially when you're dealing with some guys who haven't done a lot of this.
"Right now I'm looking at different things. He'll play again, and we'll see where we go with it."
Fedotenko has 8 goals and 8 assists and is minus-10 in 65 games after posting 10 goals and 15 assists and a plus-9 in 66 games last season. In his last 25 games, he has 2 goals and 1 assist, and he knows that's why he's currently watching from the press box.
"I had a little dip there and didn't feel like I was producing enough," Fedotenko said. "Obviously I'm not scoring as much. I feel like maybe I'm focusing too much on defense and not enough on offense. I'm not saying I need to sacrifice defense, but I feel like I just need to put the emphasis more on being creative offensively and trying to score the goals. I think that's the bottom line."
Fedotenko knows it's nice to have a history with Tortorella -- the two were together when Tampa Bay won the Cup in 2004 -- but he also knows that doesn't get him any special treatment when he's not playing well.
"It's nice to have that trust, but it's still, if I don't deliver, I'm not going to play. That's the bottom line," Fedotenko said. "You never want to be sitting. It doesn't matter if you have a history or how many years you've been in the League, you always feel like that news is … you can use your own words.
"It's not pleasant, it's not what I'd like to do, but I'm trying to take this time to evaluate the game and figure out what I can improve to go forward and help the team. The ultimate goal is to win the Cup. That's why I came back here and that's what I want to do."
Here's the rest of the Rangers' lineup for Friday's game against the Sabres:
NEW YORK --Artem Anisimov, who took a hit Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins that was so hard he said he couldn't feel his arm afterward, is back in the New York Rangers' lineup Wednesday night after missing two games with an injured right shoulder.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings will start Ty Conklin in net after the veteran goaltender cleared re-entry waivers. Rookie Jordan Pearce will serve as his backup, with starter Jimmy Howard (groin) and regular backup Joey MacDonald (back) out of commission.
NEW YORK -- Last season, the Rangers had to wait until the final day of the season to secure a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, catching a break when the Carolina Hurricanes lost to a Tampa Bay Lightning team that had secured its playoff position.
On Monday night, the Rangers can become the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a spot in the postseason by simply earning a point against the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden. If the Rangers lose in regulation, they'll have to wait at least another day before punching their playoff ticket.
What was once an insurmountable lead for the top spot in the East has been whittled to one point on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Philadelphia Flyers have played one more game than the Rangers and are three points back.
If the Rangers continue to play mediocre hockey -- they are 7-7-2 since Feb. 14 -- home-ice advantage in the first round might slip away. That's something that's not a concern to coach John Tortorella.
"It's certainly not on my mind, home ice," Tortorella said. "It's how you're playing. If you have the opportunity to play in the playoffs, it's how you're playing. So I guess your momentum going into it is very important. We're just trying to play the right way. We certainly did our last game, even after breaking the tape down, I was even more pleased by some of the things we did, but we didn't get the result.
"We're still in the regular season. We're trying to talk about playing the right away, and I believe we will. I have full faith in the hockey club. We've had a little bump here, but I thought we were dead on in our game the other night. Hopefully we can bring it into tonight."
Tortorella probably didn't mind home-ice advantage when his Tampa Bay Lightning won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2004 at home against the Calgary Flames and Game 7 of the Eastern Final at home against the Flyers. Rangers center Brad Richards was a member of that team and the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and said while finishing atop the East that season was nice, it doesn't necessarily guarantee anything.
"I don't know if it's important, but it's good to play a Game 7 at home," Richards told NHL.com. "To start a series at home, sometimes it's harder. I don't think it matters much anymore. Look at Boston last year. I'm sure Vancouver felt very good coming home for Game 7. Once you get that far in, players block everything out. You're so focused and in tune it doesn't really matter anymore."
Does having the last change in that game matter?
"In one game, I don't think so," Richards said. "By that far, everybody knows exactly what everybody is doing. It can go both ways. We were happy to have our two Game 7s that we needed at home. So, who knows?"
The Rangers have spent the past month talking less about results and more about their overall play. It begs the question -- would Richards prefer to be the No. 5 seed and have the team playing well, or would he rather see the Rangers plod along and grab the No. 1 seed in spite of that? After all, the Rangers 24-9-2 at home, the fifth-best mark in the NHL.
"I think if we're playing well, we'll be pretty close to the top, and that's still where you want to be," Richards said. "It's so tough to say I want to finish here or finish there, really you just let him fall. You're going to have to beat the best teams to get where you want to go. All 16 teams, it's crazy, you have a chance if you get in. It's happened a lot over the past however many years. Two years ago in the East, it was 7 vs. 8 in the conference finals (Canadiens vs. Flyers). So you don't know. You just want to be playing good hockey and have everything fine-tuned and it's whole new ballgame once that starts."
NEW YORK -- Artem Anisimov won't be back in the Rangers' lineup Monday against the Devils (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN2), but the good news is the injury to his left shoulder doesn't appear to be serious.
A staple among the Rangers' top-six forwards, Anisimov took part in practice Monday morning at Madison Square Garden for the first time since taking a hit from Pittsburgh's Joe Vitale on Thursday. Anisimov left the game unable to move the shoulder, but he was on the ice for a lengthy skate and said he felt "all right" Monday.
"Day-to-day," Anisimov said, echoing what coach John Tortorella had said earlier in the morning. "I'm so happy it's not more serious because it's a tough injury. I want to fully recover and not get rushed, because I go on the ice and somebody hit me in the shoulder, it'd be much more serious.
"When I hit, I don't feel my arm, I can't move my arm. I say to (head trainer Jim Ramsay), 'I can't move arm.' We went inside to work on it and he did his stuff."
In 69 games this season, Anisimov has 14 goals and 19 assists. He's been a valuable part of the Rangers' power play and penalty kill this season.
The news wasn't all positive for the Rangers, as forward Artem Anisimov and defenseman Steve Eminger will miss the game because of injuries. Defenseman Anton Stralman will be a healthy scratch and will be replaced by Tim Erixon, who was called up from Connecticut of the AHL this morning.
Anisimov took a big hit during a 5-2 loss Thursday to the Penguins and did not return. The Rangers did not disclose the injury, but he appeared to injure his right arm. Eminger did not practice Saturday morning and will be replaced by Tim Erixon, who was called up from Connecticut of the AHL and will play Saturday night.
Erixon played 13 games with the Rangers this season, failing to register a point while posting an even rating and six shots on goal. With Connecticut, Erixon has three goals and 30 assists in 43 games along with a plus-four rating.
Callahan had missed the previous three games with a foot injury that cost him six of the Rangers' last nine games. Lundqvist missed the previous two games with the flu while Del Zotto was out four games with a hip ailment.
The Rangers hold a six-point edge on their Atlantic Division rivals, who hold a game in hand. While the Penguins have been surging, the Rangers have been scuffling -- they have won two straight to start a seven-game homestand, but are just 4-3-1 in March and haven't been playing their best of late.
While the Penguins are getting healthy, the Rangers are going in the opposite direction. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will miss his second straight game due to the flu; Ryan Callahan is out for a third straight game with a foot ailment, and defenseman Michael Del Zotto will miss his fourth consecutive game with a sore hip.
There are enough storylines in this matchup to keep writers at their keyboards for days, but for both teams, the game is all that matters.
"This game is a lot more than about Sidney Crosby coming back to our game and a comeback game for Sid," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We know that if we want to catch the Rangers and first in our division and hopefully first in the conference, we have to beat them. We're coming in here to win the two points. I don't think we can give them one point and realistically think we have a chance to get them. That's what this game is for us."
Rangers coach John Tortorella doesn't care who is in the lineup for the Penguins.
"We're worried about our club," Tortorella said. "That's all we're concerned about -- the New York Rangers."
Tortorella's players aren't looking at it as just another game, but they aren't concerning themselves with any of the hype surrounding Crosby.
"Doesn't matter," Rangers forward Brian Boyle. "They're a good team that's coming on strong. He's a good player, obviously, but it's a big divisional game. That's the biggest thing. Games get magnified toward the end of the season. That's the biggest thing."
Goaltender Martin Biron will make his second straight start -- the Rangers called up Chad Johnson from Connecticut of the AHL to serve as the backup -- and said it won't be hard to focus on the task at hand.
"We had our morning skate, and we'll leave here this morning game-ready," Biron said. "It's the same as it's always been. When we play Pittsburgh, it's always a very important matchup. It's very exciting, very emotional. With Sidney in the lineup, it adds a different dimension, but I think they've got a lot of weapons on the other side that keeps us on top of our game. It's always a special game when we play them."
Defenseman Kris Letang, who was out of the lineup for five games due to headaches stemming from a hit to the head Feb. 29, has been cleared to play against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Letang said he's a little surprised to be back so quickly.
"I was scared a little bit during that game," said Letang, who suffered the injury on a hit by Stars forward Eric Nystrom. "Looking back at it, the symptoms were not that bad. I was able to rehabilitate easier."
Letang was never diagnosed with a concussion this time around, but he missed nearly two months with a concussion suffered in a game against the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 26. In a strange coincidence, Letang also returned from that injury to face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19. In that contest, he had an assist and was plus-2 in 24:17.
Coach Dan Bylsma said he doesn't expect to give Letang a full workload, but he said the same thing before that Jan. 19 game as well. Letang hasn't had the same layoff this time around, and said the symptoms from the Nystrom hit weren't as severe as the ones he felt after the hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty.
"The first time I got dizzy and I got sick," Letang said. "It was just a question of headaches (this time). It wasn't that bad."
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek said the importance of having Letang back can't be underestimated.
"It's huge," Michalek said. "He's been such a great player for us. He's having a good season and playing so many big minutes against other teams' top lines. He might be one of the top d-men in the League. He maybe doesn't get the credit he deserves in the League and it's great to have him back. I'm glad he's healthy again."
The Penguins have won nine straight games and have climbed to within six points of the Rangers in the chase for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins have played most of the season without their big guns, and Thursday's game will be the fifth this season that the Penguins will have Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang in the lineup.
The best may have yet to come for the now-healthy Penguins.
"Everybody looks at our lineup right and everyone's healthy, but you never know," Letang said. "The chemistry we had before…I think we have a pretty tight group and I think we can do a lot of great stuff. But we have to get everybody going at the same time."
"We are not worrying about who's in the lineup or who's not, we're just playing our game and we've done a pretty good job of it so far this season," Michalek said. "Obviously it's a great boost for our team to have some of the top players in the world back in our lineup. In the long run, it will definitely be a boost for our team. It's exciting, just the way we are playing right now. Having these guys back, we know we have the potential."
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NEW YORK -- For the second straight game, the New York Rangers won't be anywhere near full-strength.
Goaltender and Vezina Trophy favorite Henrik Lundqvist said Thursday morning that the flu bug that sidelined him for Tuesday's game is gone, but he's still not recovered to the point where he's ready to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in an Eastern Conference showdown on Thursday night.
"I was hoping to play tonight, but being off the ice for three days, I had a feeling it might be tough to be game-ready right away," said Lundqvist, who took part in the team's morning practice but won't dress for the game. "There's no health issue. It's just sitting at home doing nothing. Just laying in bed for two days doesn't really help."
Backup Martin Biron will make his second consecutive start after making 27 saves in the Rangers' 4-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. For the year, the 34-year-old Biron is 12-4-2 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
Chad Johnson was again recalled from Connecticut of the AHL to serve as Biron's backup.
With the Penguins on a nine-game winning streak and now six points back of the Rangers for the top spot in the East, Biron has been thrust into his team's biggest game of the season. He sees it more as big opportunity for the club, not just himself.
"It's big for everybody here to keep going and building our game," Biron said. "I think the last few games have been good games for us in the team game and some individual games too. It's a big stage and a big opportunity for this club to keep going."
The news was equally discouraging on captain Ryan Callahan (foot) and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (hip). Callahan will miss his third straight game and sixth game in the last nine with his injury, while Del Zotto will sit for the fourth consecutive game.
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"I felt good," said Backstrom after lightly skating for the second day in a row at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "There was no problems at all."
Backstrom suffered a concussion on Jan. 3 after taking an illegal hit to the head from Calgary's Rene Bourque, who was suspended five games for the incident. Bourque is now a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Backstrom skated a few times after the injury, but was eventually shut down and went home to Sweden to get his mind off hockey.
"I was out for a couple games and you get frustrated seeing all the guys," Backstrom said. "You want to be out there with them. I was changing up the atmosphere a little bit. Go home, see my family, girlfriend, stuff like that. I think that was a good thing to do and I feel better after that.
"I wasn't thinking as much about hockey as I was here. Hopefully, that helped me a lot I could do my owne thing. I was biking and stuff there."
Backstrom was leading the Capitals in scoring at the time of his injury and still ranks fourth on the team with 42 points in 38 games. He tried skating in the days that followed the Bourque and one more time later in the month before he was eventually shut down.
The 24-year-old said there's no comparison to how he felt when he woke up Jan. 4 compared to Wednesday morning after skating Tuesday.
"I've been improving a lot. I don't have the same feeling I had from when I first got the hit," Backstrom said. "We're on the program right now and I just got back from Sweden. It feels better. I started skating. You have to see where you are.
"It's day and night. It's a good sign I think. But I don't know anything else. I just know I'm skating thepast two days."
One thing Backstrom doesn't know is when he'll be back. He's currently on LTIR and there is no timetable for his return.
"We'll see what happens," Backstrom said. "The only thing I can tell you now is I'm on the ice skating light. We'll go from there. It's a process and we're working on it. I want to be out there so bad. A concussion is nothing to play around with. You want to make sure you're 100 percent before you go out there."
Callahan is sitting for the second straight game after missing three straight games with a bruised foot to start March. The Rangers' captain returned for three games after that stretch, but he once again finds himself out of the lineup.
Del Zotto will miss his third straight game with an injury the Rangers aren't disclosing. He sat out a game against the Lightning on March 2 with a hip injury, returned for the next three games, and will now miss his third consecutive contest.
Coach John Tortorella said he doesn't think the injuries are long-term issues and both players are day-to-day.
Forward Mats Zuccarello, called up before the Rangers defeated the Islanders 4-3 in overtime Sunday, will once again be in the lineup for his fifth game of the season.
NEW YORK --Henrik Lundqvist was scheduled to make his 52nd start of the season for the Rangers on Tuesday night, but the flu will keep him out of the lineup against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Lundqvist did not take part in the team's optional practice Tuesday morning, usually a sure sign that he would be that night's starting goaltender. Instead, it will be backup Martin Biron making his 18th start of the season.
To replace Lundqvist, the Rangers recalled Chad Johnson from the Connecticut Whale of the AHL.
Lundqvist is the likely favorite for the Vezina Trophy, posting a 32-14-5 record, 1.88 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. Only the Blues' Brian Elliott has a better GAA and save percentage, but he has made 21 fewer starts.
Biron has been solid in his few appearances, going 11-4-2 with a 2.25 GAA and .909 save percentage. He has struggled of late, however, going 2-2-1 with a 2.94 GAA a .880 save percentage. This season against the Hurricanes, Biron is 2-0-0 with a 2.50 GAA and .907 save percentage.
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NEWARK, N.J. -- With the Rangers sitting atop the League standings, eight points clear of the Penguins and 12 points ahead of the Bruins with less than 20 games to play, it wouldn't be out of the question for complacency to set in with a young team.
Rangers coach John Tortorella, however, doesn't see that being a problem at all over the final month of the season.
"Not with this team," said Tortorella, whose Rangers will face the Devils at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night. "This team is a group that understands that if we're going to continue to compete, we need to work every day. I trust the group understands that. We've got a lot of things to work on."
Tortorella admitted that all of his teams haven't been free of lackadaisical play. Without naming the specific team, Tortorella said that was a problem when he was coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning when they were a young team still learning about what it takes to win consistently in the NHL.
"I will say early on with the last team I coached, there were some struggles understanding how to keep your level up, but that's part of a process with a young team," said Tortorella, who is now coaching one of the youngest teams in the NHL. "I think our team has gone through a process. The best way I can put it -- I trust our guys. Our leadership group and how they've worked with their identity and the level of play that needs to be there at all times in the season. I trust them.
"I think you're going to have some struggles here and there. I think you need to be really careful when a team starts losing some games, everyone says the readiness isn't there. There's a lot of different ways you lose and win hockey games. I can only speak on my behalf."
Tortorella said the Rangers, who are 13-3-3 in their last 19 games, had an extensive film session before taking the ice for practice Tuesday morning.
"You have to," Tortorella said. "I'm being honest. I think if you don't continue to work on even the good parts of your game, let alone the ones you're struggling with, it slips. We just spent 40 minutes with tape this morning as far as some of the details of our game that I feel has slipped. That's the way this coaching staff operates. We want to continue to get better and stay consistent."
There's always lessons for young teams that when you win five or six, you can't get complacent. You need to keep it level. "
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist spoke of the different feeling at this time of the season compared to the previous two, when the Rangers were fighting just to get in the playoffs.
"When you just think about what you have to do, a lot of times you get more points because you play better," Lundqvist said. "Your mindset is not, you have to get points. It just get, get your game better and improve your game and the rest will take care of itself. I think our mindset has been good all year."
Brad Richards, who played under Tortorella in Tampa during all seven of their seasons there, said the Rangers have been in nearly the same spot for three weeks, so if complacency was going to show up, it would have already.
"We could've done that for a little while now and put ourselves back in a battle," said Richards, who cited that Pittsburgh has been playing very well of late. "We've been aware of that. It can still happen very quickly. A bad week with the amount of hockey we're playing -- we're playing pretty much four games a week in March (17 games total) -- you put in a bad week of work and you don't know what can happen."
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NEWARK, N.J. -- With Ryan Callahan likely back in the lineup for the Rangers on Tuesday night, the team will be back to nearly full strength when they face the New Jersey Devils.
One lineup change will be the insertion of defenseman Steve Eminger in place of Anton Stralman, who will likely be a healthy scratch based on the defense pairings. Stralman was benched for the third period of Sunday's game against the Bruins and had a turnover that led to a goal in the first period.
Here's what the lineup will likely look like tonight:
NEWARK, N.J. --Henrik Lundqvist is one of the most accommodating players in the NHL, always willing to answer a question at his locker long after most would walk away and a happy and willing contributor to the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit charity whose goal is to "make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles."
So when Patrick Burke needed assistance with the You Can Play Project, an initiative designed to teach tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community in all sports, Lundqvist was happy to be part of it.
"For me, it's obvious that everyone should have the same rights and ability to play the game, it doesn't matter race or sexual orientation," Lundqvist told NHL.com Tuesday morning. "To me, I think overall, all the hockey players I meet are a respectful group of people. I've never had an issue with it or seen people have issues with it. But when they asked me, if they wanted my help, I would."
Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, is the son of Leafs GM Brian Burke, who lost his son Brendan in a car accident in 2010. Before his death, Brendan revealed his homosexuality to his family in 2007 and went public with the information in 2009. Brendan was working toward spreading a message of tolerance and inclusion in the hockey world while working as a student manager and video assistant for the men's hockey team at Miami (Ohio) University at the time of his death.
"I've said it many times -- if a player form the Flyers came out tomorrow and I could improve our team by cutting him, great, see you later," Patrick Burke told NHL.com's Adam Kimelman on Monday. "… Conversely, if I can win a Stanley Cup with 22 gay guys, great. Let's go."
Lundqvist said that during his playing days both in Sweden and the NHL with the Rangers, he never knew of a teammate or player that was gay who wanted to come out. Lundqvist also said if that was the case, that person would've been accepted, whether if it was while he was playing for Frolunda or the Rangers.
But Lundqvist also said he understands the difficulty and fear that comes with being open about such a matter in a sports locker room.
"It is a tough mentality, no question," Lundqvist said. "I've never been on a team where guys come out. I don't know how guys would react. I can say from the people I know, that players are very respectful. Honestly, it wouldn't be a problem."
When asked if it would be a problem on this current Rangers team, Lundqvist gave a quick, emphatic answer.
Callahan, who hasn't played since the Rangers' 2-0 victory against the Devils eight days ago, has been dealing with a swollen right foot. X-rays showed no break, but the swelling was so significant that Callahan couldn't get the foot into his skate. He took part in the team's morning skate at Prudential Center and appeared to have no limitations, but said afterward he will be a game-time decision.
"It felt pretty good out there, not too bad," said Callahan, who also skated on his own Monday. "I'll take warmups and go from there, see how it reacts."
Callahan said he'll wear an extra piece of padding in his skate as a precaution if he does play.
"It's just a matter of being comfortable out there and being able to do everything at top speed," Callahan said. "I felt comfortable and I felt good.
The League-leading Rangers, who have 91 points in 64 games, didn't miss a beat in Callahan's absence, going 2-0-1. Facing the defending Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon, the Rangers found a way to pull out a 4-3 victory.
Callahan is the Rangers' second-leading scorer with 25 goals and 47 points in 61 games.
NEW YORK -- Rangers captain Ryan Callahan will miss Sunday afternoon's contest with the Boston Bruins due to a bruised foot, the third straight game Callahan will sit out.
Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who was absent from Friday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Lightning due to a hip injury, is back after a one-game absence.
Forward Ruslan Fedotenko took a shot off his left foot during the first period of Friday's game and sat out practice Saturday along with defenseman Dan Girardi, but both will be in the lineup against the Bruins.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will get the start in search of his 31st win of the season.
NEW YORK -- There was just no room at the wing for Wojtek Wolski.
That's what Rangers coach John Tortorella said Saturday evening before his team faced the Buffalo Sabres. Wolski was dealt to the Florida Panthers earlier in the day for a third-round pick in the 2012 draft and a prospect.
“This year, through his injuries, and then (Carl) Hagelin comes up and plays, (John) Mitchell comes up and plays, we just run out of spots,” Tortorella told a room full of reporters at Madison Square Garden.
“He’s a good guy, I wish him the best. It’s best for him. Our lineup evolved and there just weren’t any spots.”
Wolski underwent sports hernia surgery in November and played just three games upon his return. The 26-year-old has been out of the lineup since Jan. 15 and spent time playing for the AHL's Connecticut Whale in an effort to stay sharp.
The Rangers will employ the same lineup as they did Friday night in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders, but Henrik Lundqvist will be in net. Look for the Sabres to ice the same group as they did in their 2-1 shootout win against the Bruins on Friday, but there's no definitive word on which goaltender Lindy Ruff will start.
NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist is back in net for the Rangers, but that's the only lineup change they'll have for Sunday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden.
Ruslan Fedotenko, out since leaving a Feb. 9 game against the Lightning due to an illegal hit from Dominic Moore, who has since been dealt to the Sharks, skated in Greenburgh, N.Y. during the day, but coach John Tortorella offered no update on his winger's status.
The Rangers have yet to disclose the injury but have said it's not a concussion. Fedotenko tried riding a bike the day after the Moore hit but didn't feel well, so the Rangers shut him down. He took part in the team's morning skate Tuesday, but was held out of the lineup for that night's game in Boston and Thursday's home contest against the Blackhawks.
The Jackets' lineup is more guesswork. Interim coach Todd Richards said Saturday following a home loss to the Blackhawks that the plan was to start Steve Mason in net. Rookie Ryan Johansen has been a healthy scratch of late, but he could possibly find himself in the lineup.
NEW YORK -- When a team is riding a nine-game losing streak, any breaks are welcome. The Chicago Blackhawks may be catching a minor one Thursday night against the Rangers.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, the current favorite for the Vezina Trophy, will get the night off after playing three games in four days. Instead, backup Martin Biron will be in net for the Rangers.
It's not that much of a break, though. Lundqvist is 27-11-4 with a 1.77 goals-against average and .941 save percentage, but Biron is 10-2-1 with a 2.03 GAA and .919 save percentage.
The goaltender they'll face won't matter much to the Blackhawks, as they know they're facing one of the best teams in the League.
"They're one of the best teams in the League, if not the best," forward Patrick Kane said. "They play a really hard-working game and have some skill up front we have to be aware of. They're having a great season, and it's nice for them and nice for the League that they've turned it around this year. It's always fun playing the Eastern Conference teams. The game is more up-and-down, fast-paced. Hopefully we can put a few more on the board than them tonight."
NEW YORK --Corey Crawford hasn't played since allowing five goals on 27 shots in the Blackhawks' 5-3 loss in San Jose on Friday night.
The goaltender has spent the past five days on the bench as the Blackhawks' losing streak has reached an unwieldy nine games. When asked what he needs to do to get his game on the right track, he gave a straight-forward answer.
"Stopping pucks," Crawford said. "It's as simple as that."
BOSTON -- The New York Rangers' lineup isn't set in stone heading into Tuesday night's tilt with the Bruins. Forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who missed the past two games, skated with the team for the first time in the morning and is a game-time decision.
If Fedotenko can't play, coach John Tortorella will likely use defenseman Stu Bickel as a fourth-line forward for the third straight game.
These were the lines during the Rangers' practice at TD Garden this morning:
That's the stance both sides are taking heading into Tuesday night's game at TD Garden. The Rangers have played one more game than the Bruins and hold a seven-point lead in the standings. A regulation win by the Rangers wouldn't clinch the East with 25 games to play, but it would be a huge mountain for the Bruins to climb.
"I don't think we're necessarily looking at this game like we need to catch up to these guys more than we need to play well to give us a chance to win the game -- it's as simple as that," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Right now, our issues are a lot different than worrying about how far ahead they are or how much we need to catch up. We just have to go out there and play and if we play well and do the job we know we can, hopefully we can come up with a win and the rest will take care of itself."
The Rangers are taking the same tact -- they don't care how many points they are ahead of the Bruins, they just want to play their game. The last time the Rangers came to Boston they won 3-2 in overtime on Jan. 21 to turn a one-point lead in the East into a two-point edge.
The gap is wider now, but nothing is changing as far as the approach.
"I think we've done a pretty good job of trying to focus on the task at hand," Rangers forward Brian Boyle said. "We've got 20 games left where a lot can go on, where teams are going to catch fire. A lot can happen, you know? Right now, we're just trying to put one foot in front of the other. From a preparation standpoint, from what they think of us, I don't know. I don't really care. That's what they need to worry about. We're just trying to prepare for them and get our game ready."
The Rangers scored the winning goal thanks to Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference taking a major boarding penalty against defenseman Ryan McDonagh in overtime. Marian Gaborik scored in the waning seconds to win it, but neither team feels Ference's hit will be something that will carry over to this game.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of big saves by the goaltenders," McDonagh said when asked what he's expecting against the Bruins, who will start Tim Thomas against the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist. "We're just going to play our system and our structure and get our forecheck going and grind them out."
The grinding style has been a hallmark of the Rangers the past three seasons since Tortorella arrived, and now it's yielding more success than ever. Combining that style with the physical one the Bruins play, and it's a mixture the Rangers relish.
"That's just the way we play," Tortorella said. "That's the way we have the best opportunity to win hockey games. That's been part of us building that identity for the past couple years. There's no secrets at all. That's the way we're built a little bit, and that's how we've developed our identity."
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BOSTON --Ruslan Fedotenko skated with the Rangers on Tuesday morning for the first time since a hit by Tampa Bay's Dominic Moore last Thursday that knocked him out of the game.
Fedotenko missed the following two games, but he skated on his own Monday before taking part in practice in preparation for Tuesday night's clash with the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
"I feel better right now," said Fedotenko, whose left eye area was bruised as a result of Moore driving Fedotenko's stick into his face, a play that earned Moore a $2,500 fine. "I don't want to describe (the specifics of the injury). It's between me and the medical staff. I don't want to say too much. I'm sure you understand that."
Fedotenko tried riding a bike the day after the hit, but was unable to do so. He was smiling and not holding back during Tuesday's practice, but coach John Tortorella said he was unsure if Fedotenko would be back in the lineup against the Bruins.
Fedotenko said he would be a game-time decision and is day-to-day.
As for the hit, Fedotenko talked about it for the first time since it happened.
"I was angry at that point," Fedotenko said. "I felt like the puck was not near me at all, so I didn't really expect that hit. I think that's why it happened. We're trying to take these kind of plays away from the game, so we don't have any type of concussions and hurt each other. I don't know what to say. It's too bad. I'm sure he was not intending to hit me hard, but I think he was going after me because I hit him right before that."
Fedotenko was asked about the League's decision to fine but not suspend Moore because it was Fedotenko's stick that did the damage, not Moore's shoulder.
"On the one shot, you see the shoulder didn't hit me in the face, but I feel like intent was there," Fedotenko said. "The puck was not near me. They make the decisions and we'll go with that."
NEW YORK -- Ryan McDonagh gave the Rangers and their fans a scare Sunday afternoon, but it was only a brief one.
The defenseman left Sunday's game against the Washington Capitals after his left leg buckled during the second period, but returned almost immediately after being helped to the locker room.
The non-contact injury occurred as he scored his fifth goal of the season at 13:21 to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. McDonagh used a toe drag to move around a sliding defenseman, then crumpled to the ice in pain after releasing the shot.
McDonagh was back almost immediately, however, taking a shift about two minutes after leaving.
McDonagh has stepped up in a big way this season with top defenseman Marc Staal missing the first three months of the season. McDonagh is second on the Rangers and 12th in the League in ice time at 25:19 per game playing alongside NHL ice time leader and All-Star Dan Girardi.
The Rangers are currently carrying seven defensemen, but have been using Stu Bickel at forward with Ruslan Fedotenko out with an injury suffered Thursday.
The Rangers went with seven defensemen against the Flyers, with Stu Bickel moved up on the fourth line at times, and that will be the case Sunday. Capitals forward Mike Knuble was a healthy scratch against the Jets on Thursday. Here's what to expect this afternoon when the teams take the ice.
NEW YORK -- Martin Biron will be in net for the Rangers on Thursday night when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden. He'll be opposed by Mathieu Garon, who started seven of the last nine games for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said he will use seven defensemen and 11 forwards against the Rangers, but he hasn't decided on his lineup following Thursday morning's practice. He said Brett Connolly will be in the lineup, but the injured Ryan Malone will sit out another game and potentially return Saturday in Buffalo.
In Greenburgh, it was reported that rookie defenseman Stu Bickel stayed on the ice after practice, a sign that Steve Eminger will return after missing nearly two months with a separated shoulder. Eminger has been a healthy scratch the past two games.
The Lightning showed these lines at practice Thursday, while the Rangers revealed new ones at their practice Wednesday, but with coach John Tortorella, they could be completely different at 7 p.m. tonight:
NEW YORK -- Lightning forward Ryan Malone has been on injured reserve since Jan. 31 with an upper-body injury, but he could be close to returning to the lineup.
He won't be back in time to face the New York Rangers on Thursday night, but after a lengthy skate at Madison Square this morning, Malone is eyeing a possible return in Buffalo on Saturday.
"It feels good, just a little contact there," Malone said following practice. "We're just making sure. We'll see how it feels tomorrow. We don't want to come back too soon. Everybody wants to make sure it's good to go and I'll last the rest of the season."
Coach Guy Boucher won't guarantee Malone's return Saturday, but he's hopeful.
"When he got injured, he thought he'd playing two days later," Boucher said of Malone's optimism about Saturday. "We need this guy in the lineup. He had been playing really well. His last 10 games out there (3 goals, 7 assists) he had been really terrific offensively. He finally had his legs going. So it's tough."
For the season, Malone has 10 goals and 17 assists in 41 games. He hasn't played since Jan. 21.
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Scratch another potential trade candidate off the list.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, expected to be aggressive sellers at the Feb. 27 trade deadline, signed 36-year-old forward Vinny Prospal to a one-year contract extension with a reported value of $2.5 million. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch is reporting the deal includes a no-trade clause.
Prospal joined the Blue Jackets this summer after spending two seasons with the New York Rangers. Last season, Prospal was limited to 29 games as he recovered from knee surgery.
In 53 games with the Blue Jackets, Prospal has 9 goals and 24 assists.
"We are very excited to have Vinny signed for another year," said Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson said in a statement. "His leadership and play on the ice have certainly been positives for us this season."
Teams looking to add a veteran presence at minimal cost can't be happy about the extension. Prospal's original deal also carried a $2.5 million cap hit, and the veteran has 65 games of playoff experience under his belt.
NEWARK, N.J. -- According to media who attended Rangers practice Tuesday morning in Greenburgh, N.Y., defenseman Steve Eminger stayed late on the ice, a sign that he will not return to the lineup against the New Jersey Devils.
Eminger has been recovering from a separated shoulder suffered against the Phoenix Coyotes on Dec. 17. Rookie defenseman Stu Bickel will likely be sent down to Connecticut of the AHL when Eminger is ready, but Bickel drew high praise from coach John Tortorella for his performance in a 5-2 win against Flyers on Sunday afternoon.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils aren't back to 100 percent healthy just yet, but they will add a dose of toughness to the lineup for Tuesday night's showdown with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Right wing Cam Janssen, who hasn't played since Jan. 19, will take the place of forward Brad Mills in the lineup for Tuesday's game. Mills was sent to the Albany of the AHL, opening a spot for Janssen.
"I'm very, very excited," Janssen said. "What a cool game to come back to, first time at MSG this year. I'm just very excited. They've got a fun team to play against, a rough team. Last game we played them was a really rough game. The rougher the better, for guys like me."
Coach Peter DeBoer is welcoming back Janssen to the lineup three days after the Devils found themselves in a fight-filled contest against the Philadelphia Flyers, one that saw Ilya Kovalchuk drop the gloves with Brayden Schenn after the Flyers' Zac Rinaldo slew footed Zach Parise. Rinaldo draw a $2,500 fine from the League for the slew foot and was fined another $2,500 for another incident in the game.
"We want everything he brings," DeBoer said when asked if he wanted Janssen to tone down his game. "We've been in some physical games. There's probably been a couple nights here the last few weeks where we could've used them, Philly is one example. He knows how to walk that line and how to play that role as good as anybody I've had."
Kovalchuk joked he's happy to have Janssen back to ease his fighting workload.
"It's nice," Kovalchuk said. "He deserves to be back in. He's practiced really hard. He's one of those guys that brings a lot of energy to the room. We're all excited."
NEW YORK -- The Philadelphia Flyers have enjoyed mostly success this season. They are 30-15-6 with 66 points, just three fewer than the East-leading Rangers, their opponent Sunday afternoon.
The Flyers, however, have yet to figure out the Rangers. They've lost all three meetings this season when just one regulation win would be the difference between the Flyers sitting in fourth place or atop the conference.
"We haven't had any success against the Rangers," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. "It's a big game for us. If we're going to win our division, we've got a couple games coming up that are going to have to go in the (win) column."
The Flyers dropped the first meeting to the Rangers at MSG, 2-0, on Nov. 26. The deck was slightly stacked against the Flyers that night, as they were playing their third game in four nights and were without forwards James van Riemsdyk and Jaromir Jagr and defenseman Chris Pronger, who still battling a "virus" at the time and wasn't yet lost for the season with a concussion.
In the second meeting Dec. 23, the Flyers fell behind 3-0 before losing 4-2 at MSG. At the Winter Classic on Jan. 2, the Flyers held a 2-1 lead entering the third period, but the Rangers scored three straight goals to take the victory at Citizens Bank Park.
Despite the negative outcomes, Laviolette saw positives in the last two losses.
"I actually liked the way we played against them the last two games," Laviolette said. "The Winter Classic, we lost about five minutes to start the third period. Other than that, I liked our game. The last time we played in here I liked our game -- just didn't like the scoreboard."
The Flyers are coming into Sunday's contest off one of the stranger games any team has played this season.
The Devils came into Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon and scored the game's first six goals, three of which came on the power play with another coming while shorthanded. The score was 6-0 entering the third period, but the Flyers scored four times to make the finish more interesting before losing 6-4.
The Flyers outshot the Devils 24-1 in the third period. That's the portion of the game Laviolette would like to bottle and use against the Rangers.
"I like to see us pick up where we left off in the third period," Laviolette said. "It was really difficult to get a read on that game. I think 4 goals were specialty teams. Five-on-five, it was tough to find out where we're at. So I'm not sure. We came out and played a strong third period, which is what we wanted to do, so hopefully we can continue that."
NEW YORK -- Despite being medically cleared to play, Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger will not make his return against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon.
"I just wanted to give Emmy another few days," coach John Tortorella said. "It gives him a chance to have a few more days here until he starts getting into the quickness of the game."
Eminger has been out with a separated shoulder since Dec. 17. His next chance to get back into the lineup will be Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils.
When Eminger does play, he will likely replace rookie defenseman Stu Bickel. The 25-year-old was called up right after Eminger suffered his injury in Phoenix and has acquitted himself well in his first taste of the NHL. But Bickel hasn't played more than 7 minutes in any of the Rangers' last seven games.
The 24-year-old Wellman, who has 2 goals and 5 assists in 14 games this season, was assigned to the AHL's Connecticut Whale.
Before shedding Christensen's $925,000 salary, the Rangers could add about $5.5 million in cap hits at the Feb. 27 trade deadline, according to capgeek.com. That number is sure to go up slightly with this transaction.
Christensen had fallen out of favor with the Rangers after winning a roster spot out of training camp over fellow forward Sean Avery. The 28-year-old never seized the opportunity, netting just 1 goal and 4 assists in 20 games. He hasn't played since Dec. 17.
Christensen accepting a two-week conditioning stint with the Whale in mid-January. He had 2 goals and an assist in five games with the Whale, but had been a healthy scratch since he was recalled Jan. 24.
The Wild are Christensen's fifth team in seven seasons.
Christensen's strength has always been in shootouts. In his career, he is 24-for-46 in the post-overtime tiebreaker. The Wild, who rank 28th in the NHL in offense at 2.26 goals per game, are 5-5 in the shootout this season. Christensen has 62 goals and 94 assists in 358 career games, but confidence has always been an issue for the Edmonton native.
Christensen was claimed off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks in 2009, but he never found consistency with the Rangers. In 132 games as a Ranger, he had 20 goals and 38 assists.
"I probably frustrate him more than anyone else on this team," Christensen told NHL.com during last year's playoffs about his dealings with Tortorella. "He's definitely given me an opportunity. I come up here and didn't know what to expect. He's definitely got a people kind of side to him. He's not the guy everyone sees on the bench. He'll talk to you. You'll see him laughing and joking with the guys. It's been a lot of fun playing for him."
The 6-foot, 173-pound Wellman has 4 goals and 9 assists in 41 career games over parts of three seasons.
Coach John Tortorella hasn't had much need to shuffle his forwards in and out of the lineup thanks to good health of late and success most of this season, but the Rangers play two straight games coming out of the All-Star break, so having Christensen and Wolski around will be key if a regular suffers an injury.
"There will be discussions. We just got back," Tortorella said. "We go back-to-back here. After these two games, we have three days. I'm sure there will be some discussions about what we want to do. I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I'm sure it's going to be discussed."
The Rangers will ice their usual lineup against the Devils, who have their lines posted here:
Backup Martin Biron will get the start for the Rangers against New Jersey's Martin Brodeur on Tuesday night at Prudential Center, snapping a string of 32 consecutive starts by Lundqvist against their cross-river rivals that dates to Dec. 17, 2006. Lundqvist participated in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game this past weekend in Ottawa.
"I thought about it yesterday when (coach John Tortorella) told me I wasn't playing today," said Lundqvist, who is third in the NHL in goals-against average (1.87) and save percentage (.937). "It's been a while since I watched a game against this team. It'll be different."
Biron was scheduled to start the Rangers' final game before the break last Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets, but he became ill following the team's morning practice and had to give way to Lundqvist.
With the Rangers playing Wednesday night in Buffalo, it made sense to let Biron get a start after the long layoff.
"You come back and have a back-to-back after the All-Star break, you kind of have an idea you're going to get one of the two, but I didn't know which one," Biron said. "I didn't care which one. I just wanted to get myself ready as soon as I got back. I was disappointed not being able to get a game before the break. Stuff like that happens. The very next day, you start feeling better, your mind is looking forward to the next game. The break was great, but you want to get going and play some games."
Biron has been the busiest backup the Rangers have had since Lundqvist became the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender in 2006-07. In 12 games (11 starts), Biron is 9-2-0 with a 1.88 GAA and .927 save percentage.
Lundqvist has owned the Devils during his career. He is 23-9-5 with a 1.82 GAA and .937 save percentage, but Tortorella had his mind made up long before Tuesday.
"I made this decision before the All-Star break," Tortorella said. "I wanted to make sure (Lundqvist) got two practices under his belt. I thought he was only going to take one, because I didn't think he was going to skate yesterday, but he wanted to. We talked about this prior to the All-Star break that we were going to go this way."
Lundqvist said he arrived at practice Monday because he assumed he'd be facing the Devils on Tuesday, but he understands the importance of getting an extra day of rest as the Rangers head down the homestretch.
"I'm so used to playing against this team that I thought I was playing," Lundqvist admitted. "I think it's good for me to get an extra day. I could feel yesterday that it's been a lot of hockey and talk about hockey this weekend. Just to sit on the bench today and relax a little bit is going to help me prepare for tomorrow."
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The 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game will be Jamie Benn's first action since having his appendix removed on Jan. 15. He says he's ready to go, and he wouldn't be here this weekend if he wasn't.
However, he also said that the timing of the All-Star break is perfect because odds are he would have missed a few more games if the season never stopped.
"I only missed five games, which isn't too bad I guess," Benn said Friday. "It was good timing, and I'll be ready to go after the break here. I'm looking forward to it."
The Stars are back in action Wednesday at Anaheim. However, Benn isn't necessarily thinking about that right now. He's enjoying his time in the spotlight as one of the best players in the game.
His appendectomy aside, just being here is important to him and it's why he says he received a vote of support from Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk.
"I had some talks with Joe Nieuwendyk and the doctors, and Joe wanted me to be here and I wanted to really come," Benn said. "It's a good experience being here. It's something I'm taking all in and I'm learning. I'm getting to see the guys and see what they do. I'm having fun with it. We're here for a good weekend."
OTTAWA -- The boos Joffrey Lupul heard during Thursday night's fantasy draft were hard to ignore. So the Maple Leafs All-Star who was hearing it from the Senators fans in attendance instead had a good time with it.
"Yeah, I was a little surprised," Lupul said during Friday's media day. "But that's good. It was fun. The whole thing was fun. If we're getting cheered in Ottawa, that's probably worse. That means we're not doing our job. The rivalry is starting to heat back up a bit. Their team is having a great season and we want to catch them."
OTTAWA --Jarome Iginla, at age 34, knows he's not one of the younger players at this year's All-Star Game.
But his veteran status won't help him out when it comes time for the captains to pick who is doing what during the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
"You kind of ask afterwards. 'Oh, what do you have for me?' Iginla said during media day. "Maybe as an older guy you have some say if you don't really like the event. I think they ask a little bit, like who wants to be in the fastest skater. That one you have to be up for. You don't want to see a big discrepancy in times.
"Maybe some guys take a long to warm up, eh?"
Iginla was asked if this year's game was a chance for some players that aren't necessarily in the spotlight can make a name for themselves with superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin absent from the festivities.
"I think there's a lot of skill and yeah, maybe guys who are keyed in on Crosby and Ovechkin, maybe they can enjoy the excitement and dynamic players the NHL does have," Iginla said. "There are a lot of great young guys."
The two-hour fun fest that is All-Star Weekend media day kicked off with the game's three coaches -- Claude Julien, John Tortorella and Todd McLellan holding court for about 10 minutes apiece as the media engulfed them with questions about Sunday's game.
Tortorella, who is coaching Team Alfredsson, said he plans on letting Alfredsson and Henrik Lundqvist make all the lineup decisions while he sits back and watches like a fan. It'll be interesting to see if he maintains that stance if Lundqvist starts double shifting Rangers teammate Dan Girardi in the third period.
Alfredsson, Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek spoke for a few minutes prior to Thursday night's draft at Hilton Lac Leamy. Spezza was far more diplomatic with the same question.
"I think we'd all prefer to play with him," Spezza said. "But it's his preference. He's the boss."
All four were voted to the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game by the fans. The break is usually an ideal time to get some rest and recharge the batteries, but the players are more than happy to take part in the festivities in front of the home crowd at Scotiabank Place.
"It's nice to be able to be at home and give back to the fans at home," Spezza said. "Tomorrow, I'll probably do a lot of running around. I've got a lot of family and friends coming in for Saturday and Sunday. I need to make sure to take the time to enjoy the game and make sure they enjoy it too. It's going to be a nice mix."
"It's going to be a fun weekend for everybody and I just want to enjoy it," Michalek said.
NEW YORK --Martin Biron was scheduled to get the start in net for the New York Rangers against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, but he came down with a touch of the flu following morning practice and will sit the game out.
Instead, starter Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes in the Rangers' final game before the All-Star break. Chad Johnson was recalled from Connecticut of the AHL to serve as Lundqvist's backup.
The Jets are playing their third game in four nights as they enter the break. Ondrej Pavelec will be in net for the Jets as Chris Mason made the start Monday night in Carolina.
Alexander Burmistrov suffered an injury in that 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes and won't play against the Rangers. The Jets recalled Aaron Gagnon from the St. John's IceCaps of the AHL to take his spot in the lineup. To make room, the team placed Evander Kane on the injured reserve.
Jets coach Claude Noel said he liked the fact that Gagnon can play center and he's been doing well (8 goals, 12 assists, 32 games) in the minors.
How Noel will stack his lineup remains in doubt, but if Gagnon plugs into Burmistrov's spot, this is how things could look:
Defenseman Kris Letang, out nearly two months, will be back in the Penguins' lineup. It was announced by the Penguins that forward Arron Asham, who hasn't played since Sunday, has a concussion and is out indefinitely.
The Rangers won't make it official until later in the day, but Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes. Backup Martin Biron was the only goalie on the ice at an optional practice in Greenburgh, N.Y., in the morning, a sure sign that Lundqvist will start.
Here is what the Penguins and Rangers will probably look like when they take the ice (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) in their Atlantic Division showdown. The lines for the Rangers were put through a blender during the end of their last game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, but what you see here is how they started that game.
Letang has not played since suffering a concussion on Nov. 26 against the Montreal Canadiens.
Coach Dan Bylsma said Letang's minutes will be limited against the Rangers (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US), but he couldn't be happier about getting back his top defenseman.
"It certainly is a situation where you're not looking to give him too many minutes," Bylsma said. "I still think he's going to be used in the top-four role against the other good players and on the power play, so he is going to play a fair amount of minutes in tonight's game."
Letang was an All-Star last season and was well on his way to a trip to Ottawa for this year's game before a hit from Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty sidetracked his season. Pacioretty delivered a hit to Letang's head late in the third period of that game that left Letang bloodied and sent him to the locker room, but he returned to score in overtime to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory.
Pacioretty was suspended three games for the hit, while Letang missed the next 21 games.
"I would say excited," Letang said of his emotions headed into Thursday's game. "When you've been out of the lineup for a long time like this, you just want to get back out there with your teammates and be part of the team."
Letang said he has no anxiety about physical contact.
"It's just going to come," Letang said. "I'm going to get hit probably before I hit somebody. I'm just focusing on the way I play the game and that's it."
Conditioning isn't a concern for Letang, either. He said he worked out and practiced daily while the Penguins spent three games on the road before returning home for Tuesday's 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Letang leaned on Sidney Crosby, whose concussion problems cost him the second half of last season and the first 20 games of this season before they resurfaced on Dec. 5.
"(He said) just pay attention to how your body reacts out there and make sure I'm 100 percent ready," Letang said of Crosby's advice. "Don't take any chances because you need your head for the rest of your life."
Along with Crosby and Letang, it was announced by Bylsma on Thursday that forward Arron Asham is also dealing with concussion-like symptoms. The injury list also includes center Jordan Staal, who is out 4-6 weeks after a knee-to-knee collision with the Rangers' Mike Rupp on Jan. 6, and defenseman Simon Despres, who is out two weeks with a sprained knee.
The Penguins have been ravaged by injuries for a better part of the past two seasons, so Letang's return is a welcome sight for the team, which hasn't had its top four of Letang, Zbynek Michalek, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik healthy all at once all that often.
"It's good to have your top-four defenseman back on the ice, that's for sure," Bylsma said. "We certainly missed his presence back there in a lot of ways -- defending, the ability to play with the puck power-play-wise. To be able to get those four guys who we haven't really had a significant amount this year, to get them together will be a lift for our team."
Dubinsky missed three games while Fedotenko missed one. Both reported feeling good after practice and will be in the lineup against the Predators as long as there are no setbacks between practice and gametime.
Henrik Lundqvist will start in net for the Rangers. He'll be opposed by backup Anders Lindback, who gets the start with the Predators playing the second half of a back-to-back.
Lindback won't have the luxury of Ryan Suter on the blue line, as the defenseman is out with an upper-body injury. Rookie Craig Smith, who missed the last two games while feeling under the weather, will check back into the lineup.
Coach John Tortorella said he wants to make sure Dubinsky and Fedotenko feel good enough to play in the hours following Tuesday's practice, but he believes they'll be back. Kris Newbury was optioned to the Connecticut Whale on Monday afternoon and Wojtek Wolski would be a healthy scratch if Dubinsky and Fedotenko both give Tortorella a thumb's up.
Dubinsky said the reason for his extended absence had more to do with the Rangers playing three games in four nights and not the injury. He said if this was the playoffs, he wouldn't have missed a game.
"There's always aches and pains when you're 45 games into the season," Dubinsky said. "It's not just me playing through a little bit of pain. It's bearable. It's nothing that's going to keep me out."
It didn't stop there for the Rangers.
Defenseman Michael Sauer, out with a concussion since he taking a massive hit from Toronto's Dion Phaneuf on Dec. 5 that sent his helmet flying and head crashing into the boards, skated for the second time since the injury.
Sauer skated during the Rangers' off-day Monday and with the team Tuesday in an orange, non-contact jersey Tuesday. He said he's been symptom-free for about 10 days, and the team considers him day-to-day for now.
When asked about the hit that caused the injury, Sauer said the reason his helmet came off had nothing to do with him not wearing his helmet properly. He said the force of the hit broke the chin strap, pushed the visor down on his face and popped the helmet off the back of his head. Sauer believes if he wasn't wearing a visor, his helmet would've remained in place.
"Every concussion is different," Sauer said when asked if Marc Staal, who missed the first 36 games of the season with concussion issues, offered any advice. "You have to listen to your body, your head. If your head's not feeling good, and you're not seeing things and you're forgetting stuff, it's probably a symptom. We just wanted to get myself to the point where I was feeling good. Once I started feeling good enough for a long enough period of time, they decided to get me on the bike, get me moving."
Defenseman Steve Eminger, who suffered a separated shoulder against the Phoenix Coyotes on Dec. 17, skated for the first time since his injury. He said he doesn't expect to be back until after the All-Star break.
Defenseman Jeff Woywitka, who has a bone bruise in his foot, also took part in practice after being shut down for a week.
The Predators will give Pekka Rinne a rest, instead starting backup goaltender Anders Lindback. They also will be without defenseman Ryan Suter, who aggravated an upper-body injury during the Predators' 3-1 win against the Islanders on Monday afternoon.
Rinne is coming off a brilliant 36-save performance on Monday, but coach Barry Trotz is trying to see the big picture with his Vezina-worthy goaltender.
"We're going to have to play Lindy a little bit here," Trotz said of Lindback. "We really looked at the schedule, and we just played a back to back. This will probably be more of the norm in the second half of the season."
Including tonight's game at Madison Square Garden, the Predators have five back-to-backs over the rest of the season. Rinne has started 41 of Nashville's 45 games this season.
Suter played just 7:04 on Monday and following the game was deemed doubtful for today's contest. He did not take part in the team's optional practice this morning.
The 26-year-old Suter is second in the NHL in average ice time per game at 26:30, which is 51 seconds fewer than what League-leader Dan Girardi of the Rangers averages. Trotz said it will have to be a group effort in replacing Suter against the Rangers.
"Everybody has to make sure they're diligent defensively as a five-man group," Trotz said. "You have to pay attention to the details of the game. I'll have to spread around some of those minutes."
Trotz said he can't see how he can get more minutes for Shea Weber, who already plays 26:13 per game, but he will disperse Suter's minutes to defensemen Jack Hillen and Kevin Klein.
One piece of good news for the Predators is the return of forward Craig Smith, who was feeling under the weather Monday and did not play. The rookie has 9 goals and 26 points in 43 games this season.
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Wolski underwent sports-hernia surgery in early November and has been waiting for about two weeks to crack the lineup, but has been a healthy scratch as the red-hot Rangers have had little reason to shuffle their lineup.
But an injury to Brandon Dubinsky's right shoulder has given Wolski a chance. Dubinsky suffered the injury during Tuesday's 2-1 shootout win against the Coyotes. Coach John Tortorella said the move to scratch Dubinsky is an effort to keep the shoulder from being a long-term problem.
Wolski, who has 2 assists in 6 games this season, will take Dubinsky's spot on the Rangers' second line with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, leaving their other three lines intact.
Dubinsky took a hard hit during Tuesday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes and did not participate in Thursday morning's practice. He had X-rays on his right shoulder, but they came back negative.
"It's going to be sore, obviously," Dubinsky told reporters at the team's practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. "It's just a matter of how well I can deal with that and take it from there."
If Dubinsky can't go, Wojtek Wolski will play his first game since having sports-hernia surgery in early November. He's been a healthy scratch the past couple of weeks as coach John Tortorella hasn't wanted to mess with the lineup as the Rangers have won five straight and 10 of 11.
Wolski has played just six games this season and has 2 assists.
His first game back could be a memorable one. On Oct. 29, Wolski delivered a shot to the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson that caused a concussion. Alfredsson missed five games after the hit.
The two teams met again Nov. 9, but both Alfredsson and Wolski were out of the lineup. Alfredsson said Thursday after practice that he wasn't aware of the fact that Wolski could return, but the Senators likely haven't forgotten about that hit.
NEW YORK --Erik Karlsson confirmed Thursday what everyone believed would be the case -- he's back in the lineup for the Ottawa Senators after missing the team's previous game with an upper-body injury.
"I feel a lot better today," Karlsson said. "It's definitely going as plan and I expect to be ready tonight."
Karlsson suffered his injury during pre-game warmups in the Sens' previous game against the Penguins on Tuesday. He was replaced by Matt Carkner, who will be a healthy scratch against the Rangers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
The NHL's leading scorer among defensemen said he doesn't expect his injury to be a nagging one, but he couldn't promise it wouldn't crop up again.
Coach Paul MacLean is just happy to get Karlsson back against the NHL's top team.
"Obviously he's a very important player for us," MacLean said. "He generates a lot of offense for us. He's arguably our best player. Anytime you get one of them back, it's good for your team."
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NEW YORK -- The Ottawa Senators could look at Thursday night's game against the New York Rangers, who lead the NHL in points with 58 points, as a chance to see how they match up with the best team in the League.
Instead, the streaking Senators are looking at the bigger picture.
The Senators are coming off a 5-1 win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. It marked the start of a stretch of nine of 10 away from Scotiabank Place. That rough road swing includes stops in Toronto, San Jose and Boston.
"This trip is a measuring stick for us," Ottawa's Jason Spezza said. "This is a real tough trip, and we're just trying to be real short-sighted with how we approach it, because it can be a real daunting task if you look at the big picture. It's definitely a big game for us, but we're kind of using the whole trip as the test."
Ottawa is 8-1-2 in its last 11 games, which happen to coincide with the arrival of Kyle Turris in a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes. He has 1 goal and 7 assists in that stretch.
The plan against the Rangers is a familiar one -- disrupt the vision of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who is a strong candidate for the Vezina Trophy through the first half of the season.
"We know they're going to come out hard," Spezza said. "Torts has them playing a real fast-paced game. We try to play a similar style. Just be patient. We'll get chances and Hank will make saves, but you have to stick with it and try to get a lot of traffic around him -- be relentless around the net. Really bear down on your good opportunities. He's such a good goaltender that he's not going to give you too many free ones."
Senators coach Paul MacLean admits the Rangers will be a challenge for his team, which is one of the few to win in Madison Square Garden as a visitor this season -- the Rangers are 12-3-2 on home ice and suffered a 5-4 shootout loss to Ottawa in their home opener in late October.
"They're the best team in the League," MacLean said. "Their goalie's played real well. Their team play has been good. It's going to be a real test for us. Like every night, it's a test of our consistency to see if we can come back and do it again. "
NEW YORK -- The Phoenix Coyotes are looking for a course correction as they pay a visit to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night to face the New York Rangers.
The Coyotes have lost six of eight and 10 of 15 to slip to 11th place in the Western Conference, three points back of the eighth and final playoff spot.
The Coyotes held an optional practice Tuesday morning with only scratches and injured players taking part, but here is what the lines looked like during their 5-1 victory against the Islanders on Saturday:
Meanwhile, the Rangers held an optional practice of their own in Greenburgh on Thursday morning. Reports indicate they won't be making any lineup changes, which means it will be Henrik Lundqvist in net with Wojtek Wolski and Erik Christensen once again healthy scratches.
The Coyotes enter Madison Square Garden on Tuesday with losses in 10 of their last 15 games to face the League-leading Rangers, who have won four straight and nine of 10. It's the start of three-game road trip through New York, Detroit and Columbus that marks the final portion of a grueling stretch for the Coyotes that started in late November.
"We haven't been as good as we've wanted to be for the last three weeks," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who netted his first career hat trick in 1,161 career games in a 5-1 win against the Islanders on Saturday. "We haven't had a long, bad losing streak, but we've lost three here, two more there, and it adds up. As a team, we hadn't lost three straight previous to that in the two years that Tipp's been our coach, so we have to get it going back in the right direction."
Performing well in these three road games before a stretch of seven of eight games at home is important for the Coyotes.
"It's huge for us," Doan said. "There's only been one game since Nov. 25 where we haven't had a flight right after the game. It's been a tough stretch. We're getting through it and this is the last part of it. Once we get through this part, I hope we'll be going in the right direction."
A win against the Rangers would be a confidence-boosting start for the struggling Coyotes, but it won't be easy. The Rangers are 12-3-2 at home this season and have just one loss at home in their last six games at MSG since Dec. 11.
Some teams get excited by the prospect of measuring up against one of the League's better teams, but Doan isn't looking at Tuesday's matchup exactly like that.
"I think whenever you play one of the better teams, yeah, you want to do well," Doan said. "But I think the League is so tight. Next week, there could be six other teams at the top because there's no one team that's running away with anything yet. Obviously they're playing really well, when you look at what they've done in their last 10 games to put themselves in that position."
They've led the Southeast Division since Nov. 19 and will get a true test against the East-leading Rangers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
"We played the last month or two with seven forwards out of our lineup and we're still leading our division, so we must be doing something right as a team," Weiss said following the team's practice at Chelsea Piers. "We're getting healthy now, and we want to make an even bigger push in the second half and start that tonight."
The Panthers, who haven't played since Dec. 31, will get two key players back against the Rangers -- Marcel Goc and Mikael Samuelsson. Goc has been out since Nov. 17 with a head injury while Samuelsson has played just six games since the was acquired from the Canucks in October due to lingering groin issues and a back injury suffered in late December.
"There's going to be an adjustment period here for them," Panthers coach Kevin Dineed said. "You'd like to ease guys back into the lineup, but that's not how we do things. If they're going to play, they're going to get right back into the thick of it. We're going to need a lot of quality hockey out of them to beat the top team in the conference. Marcel Goc is a really important piece to our puzzle, and it'll be important to have them back in our lineup."
These teams met in Florida with the Rangers winning 4-1. As time expired, Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto and Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky exchanged blows with the Rangers' Michael Rupp throwing punches at Kopecky.
The Panthers made it sound unlikely there will be a repeat of that melee.
"For us, to get wrapped up with that emotion, it doesn't benefit us," Dineen said. "It's non-productive."
"It's always physical against that club, so that'll be nothing new," Weiss said. "I think that's in the past. There's too much at stake right now with points to let that stuff get in the way."
A big reason for their Dec. 30 loss was goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 27 of 28 shots. That won't be a problem Thursday, as all signs indicate that backup Martin Biron will oppose the Panthers' Scott Clemmensen in the fourth and final meeting between the teams this season.
"We want to have a better game," Weiss said. "I don't think the last game we played them that the score told the tale of the game. We had a (bad) start. Two goals off deflections. They got a 3-0 lead and the rest of the game we played pretty well. We just couldn't beat Lundqvist. We want to have a better effort for sure, especially against the top teams."
NEW YORK -- If John Madden had it his way, he wouldn't have waited until the season was nearly halfway over before signing with an NHL team.
"I thought I'd be playing at the beginning of the year, to be honest with you," said the 38-year-old Madden, who signed Wednesday for the rest of the season with the Florida Panthers. "I feel I have something to prove. I still feel I can still play the game. I've got a little fire in my belly again for being looked over another time."
One look at Madden's resume can explain his surprise about being unable to find a contract this summer.
The native of Toronto spent his first 10 seasons in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, where he compiled two Stanley Cup victories and a Selke Trophy. He spent the 2009-10 season with the Chicago Blackhawks where he lifted the Stanley Cup for the third time. The checking center had 12 goals and 13 assists in 76 games with the Minnesota Wild last season, but was unable to find a home this season.
Injuries were taking their toll on the Southeast Division-leading Panthers, who believed he was a good fit because of his experience and ability to kill penalties. Stephen Weiss has been trying to find a balance between centering the team's top line and working on the penalty kill, and the addition of Madden will relieve Weiss of some of those defensive duties.
Madden said he had been keeping tabs on the Panthers because Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Brian Campbell, his teammates during the Blackhawks' championship season of 2010, were playing in Florida. After a while, Madden said he was blown away by the success the Panthers were having.
"I started watching and, wow," Madden said. "They're really playing well. It's fun to watch. I played with a few other guys here (Jose Theodore in Minnesota, Scott Clemmensen in New Jersey), and they've got some great young players here. It's been fun to watch so far."
Madden won't be in the lineup when the Panthers face the Rangers on Thursday night, but he's hoping to make his season debut Friday in New Jersey against the team that gave him his start in the NHL.
"Just to have Madds in general, it's going to help our hockey club," Weiss said. "That'll be great. Just from playing against him, I know how he good he is on draws and killing penalties and good defensively."
PHILADELPHIA -- Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh gave fans a scare during what was supposed to be a fun outdoor practice at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.
About 10 minutes after the Rangers took the ice, McDonagh left with an equipment manager and returned to the locker room. But it was later reported that he was dealing with flu-like symptoms.
Rangers coach John Tortorella said after practice that McDonagh would be available Monday to face the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
The Rangers have been dealing with injuries to their blueliners throughout the first half of the season. Marc Staal has missed the entire season with a concussion, Michael Sauer has missed almost a month with a concussion, and Steve Eminger is out two months after separating his shoulder.
The loss of McDonagh, who has made the transition seamlessly into Staal's spot on the top defense pairing with Dan Girardi, might have been too much to bear. Tortorella said the reason why the 22-year-old has performed so well this season is his short memory.
"I always say about Mac, he makes mistakes during the game," Tortorella said. "Everybody does. He makes some doozies, too. But when he does, it doesn't affect him the next shift. It doesn't take him two periods, two games, to get over it. He responds right away, and that's a great trait in that position, because the mistakes are so much more magnified playing defense. He's handled himself very well."
PHILADELPHIA -- Before Paul Broten ever joined the New York Rangers in 1989, he grew up in Roseau, Minn. If you're not familiar with that territory, it's a cold-weather area in a state that's nicknamed The Land of 10,000 Lakes.
So it would only be normal to assume Broten spent his boyhood years skating outside on frozen bodies of water, honing the game that would allow him to spend seven years in the NHL and four with the Rangers.
Well, you'd be wrong.
"You know what, I didn't," Broten said Friday, as he met with media on the eve of 2012 Molson Canadian Winter Classic Alumni Game in which he'll take part. "I grew up in northern Minnesota. We didn't have a lot of outdoor rinks. We had three indoor rinks. We had 2,500 people who skated all the time. I played a lot of road hockey. But the myth of skating outdoors in northern Minnesota was…never did it a lot. We always had indoor rinks and did that all the time."
Broten will get to skate outside Saturday against the Flyers alumni at Citizens Bank Park. While that will be a rarity for the 46-year-old, he talked about what is commonplace for a native of Minnesota -- ice fishing and sitting in a tree for hours while out hunting.
"That's part of Minnesota -- if you don't ice fish and you don't sit in a tree and wait for a deer, you're not a true Minnesotan," Broten said. "I'm not going to say it's a lot of fun, but it's something you have to do. I do a lot of it, and I enjoy it. It's just something that gets you out of the house I guess."
Broten told his favorite story from the Flyers-Rangers rivalry, when he scored a big goal that angered the Flyers' goaltender.
"The rivalry way so intense," Broten said. "I'll never forget the time (Darren Turcotte) slid the puck over to me and I scored against Ron Hextall. I told him, 'Hey, it's not a guessing game.' He was so mad that he swung his stick and broke it. Every time I came into Philadelphia, it was always a battle. Guys were nervous to play here because we knew it was going to be an intense hockey game.
"When they turned the bus off and pulled into the parking lot, the bus would still be shaking. Guys were scared. They knew they were in for a battle."
PHILADELPHIA -- When he was coaching in the NHL, there weren't many who came with a scarier reputation than Mike Keenan.
His toughness earned him the nickname "Iron Mike," but his savvy brought the New York Rangers a Stanley Cup in 1994, their first since 1940 and only championship in the past 71 years.
The 62-year-old Keenan will be behind the Rangers bench once again, but only for the 2012 Molson Canadian Winter Classic Alumni Game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday.
On Thursday, former Rangers Darren Turcotte and Paul Broten, who will be on the ice for the alumni game at Citizens Bank Park, talked about the potential fireworks that could come with Keenan as their coach once again.
"Now I can just turn around and say whatever," said Broten, who played under Keenan with the St. Louis Blues but not for the Rangers. "I'm not being paid. I can say whatever I want. He can go a fly a kite. It was different when I was being paid to play. He can't trade me."
Turcotte only spent 13 games with the Rangers before he was dealt to the Hartford Whalers, causing him to miss out on the Stanley Cup run. His experience with Keenan was limited, but he still left an impression.
"I played for some pretty tough coaches growing up," Turcotte said. "I played for my dad, who was known as one of the toughest coaches in northern Ontario. I played for Bud Templeton in North Bay for four years. Fortunately, for me, I was prepared for Mike Keenan's style. He also did some things that were a little bit…you look back, and we won our first four games of the season, and we lost to Anaheim at home in Game 5. Even though we started 4-1, we got to the rink the next day and there were no pucks on the ice. We skated for about 45 minutes straight.
"Then he preceded to kick everybody off the ice. He was sitting in the dressing room waiting for us with our five-game bonus checks. He made sure everyone came over and took them personally and shook our hands and congratulated us after drilling us into the ice for 45 minutes.
"Mike had his way of motivating. For me, I was just going to work as hard as I could because I wanted to be a Ranger."
NEW YORK --Marc Staal jumped another hurdle Monday in his slow and steady recovery from a concussion that has kept him out all season. He was cleared for contact and took part in battle drills as the Rangers prepared to face the Islanders on Monday night.
Staal won't be in the lineup against the Islanders, but he's closer to playing than he has been since he was shut down during training camp in September. He's dealt with lingering concussion symptoms caused by a hit from brother Eric Staal of the Hurricanes in February.
The 24-year-old defenseman said he still needs to improve his conditioning in order to play 25 minutes per night like he has in the past. The Rangers' next three games after Monday are all on the road -- at Washington on Wednesday, at Florida on Friday, then in Philadelphia on Jan. 2 for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park.
Staal didn't rule out playing in the Winter Classic before he was cleared for contact, but said he wouldn't rush back just to play in the game unless he was 100 percent healthy.
The loss of Staal hasn't hurt the Rangers' defense, which ranks third in the NHL at 2.09 goals allowed per game. The Rangers have also played without Michael Sauer (concussion) for three weeks and recently lost Steve Eminger for two months with a separated shoulder.
NEW YORK -- The holiday break couldn't have come at a worse time for the Rangers, who won their fourth straight game Friday. The 4-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers moved the Rangers into first place in the Atlantic Division and second place in the Eastern Conference.
The Rangers will get back at it Monday night at Madison Square Garden against the New York Islanders, who the Rangers beat 4-2 on Thursday.
Rangers coach John Tortorella said it doesn't matter if his team is playing on two days rest, five days rest or against a division rival. The short layoff can't be an excuse for having a slow start Monday night.
"Doesn't matter," Tortorella said. "Everybody has a break for two days. You can't take a period to get ready. If it takes a period to get ready, then we're up against it. I believe both teams will be ready to play. It doesn't matter who we're playing or who they're playing, everybody went through the same thing. It's about getting back to playing the game."
In the Rangers' win against the Flyers, Tortorella used four defensemen across his two power-play units. There have been times when forwards Brad Richards or Derek Stepan manned the point, but Tortorella said he'd prefer to keep his top forward lines (Brandon Dubinsky-Richards-Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov-Stepan-Marian Gaborik) together with the man-advantage.
The Islanders had their morning skate on Long Island. The Rangers had theirs at MSG. Henrik Lundqvist will start, and this is how the lines will likely look later in the day:
NEW YORK -- The Rangers won't mess with success. They also have little choice with all the injuries they're facing of late.
John Tortorella said he will ice the same team he used in the Rangers' 4-2 win against the Islanders on Thursday for Friday night's game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden. The only change will be in net, as Henrik Lundqvist will make the start after Biron picked up the win Thursday.
Personnel won't change, but there might be some shuffling of the lines. Tortorella was asked about the performance of the Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Ryan Callahan line against the Islanders on Thursday and wasn't pulling punches.
"Not too much," Tortorella said when asked what the thought of the line. "They didn't accomplish a whole hell of a lot."
That could be a sign that Brandon Dubinsky, who scored his second goal of the season, will be elevated to that line in place of Hagelin. Defenseman Jeff Woywitka (foot) is out, but Tortorella wouldn't say if the injury was long-term or short-term.
There's some guesswork, but this is likely the lineup the Rangers will send out against the Flyers:
NEW YORK --Brian Boyle was asked Friday morning if the Rangers tried to conserve energy Thursday night against the Islanders with the Philadelphia Flyers on the schedule 24 hours later.
Any chance he wanted to keep a little something extra in the tank for the Eastern Conference showdown at Madison Square Garden?
"There may be a couple guys who are good enough to do that," Boyle said, "but I'm certainly not one of them."
Whatever the Rangers are doing to find success in back-to-backs, it's working with lethal efficiency.
The Rangers are 4-0-1 in the first game of back-to-back sets this season, and are 3-0-1 in the second game. Since 2009-10, they are 24-8-3 in the second game of back-to-back sets, with a 12-3-1 mark at MSG and 12-5-2 on the road over the span.
Rangers coach John Tortorella has talked about the pride the team takes in winning the second half of back-to-backs because of the punishing training camp the team goes through in September. To hear Boyle talk about this game against the Flyers, Tortorella's mentality sounds as though it's seeping into the brains of his players.
"Each game presents a new opportunity and you don't want to throw any points away," Boyle said. "Two points now are just as important as two points in March. We know it's going to be physical. We know it's just a matter of taking care of what we need to take care of, getting the job done. When it's time to go home, you go home. When it's time to go back to the rink, you go to work again."
If the Rangers win in regulation tonight, they'll take over first place in the Atlantic Division and potentially the Eastern Conference. Boyle said it would be a nice feat heading into the two-day Christmas break, but the team isn't checking the standings daily in the hopes of being on top in December.
"It's a nice thing," Boyle said. "You worked hard and you've done pretty well. But we don't pay too much attention to it. We worry about winning games. To get on top, that's an accomplishment a little bit. It's what we can control now. Being on top, that's big. That's not our ultimate goal. There's still work to be done."
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NEW YORK -- Just when you think the Philadelphia Flyers can't suffer another injury to one of their key players, Danny Briere joins the list of the walking wounded.
Briere, who has 10 goals and 25 points this season, will not be in the lineup tonight against the New York Rangers due to a bruised hand he suffered during Wednesday's game against the Dallas Stars. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren announced Friday that the speedy forward is day-to-day.
Besides Briere, the Flyers are without captain Chris Pronger for the rest of the season due to a concussion. Forwards Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn are out with concussions. Defenseman Andreas Lilja just returned from an ankle injury in the Flyers' previous game against the Stars, as did center Claude Giroux, who had missed four games with a concussion before returning with a four-point night.
"The injuries, they're not something that we can control. They happen," Laviolette said. "We've said this before. They continue to happen. But I really like the team we're putting on the ice tonight. I think we go out there and express ourselves and the way we play the game and make up for the people that aren't there by getting strong performances out of others. While we wish we had a full lineup, everybody wishes that."
Briere has been centering the Flyers' second line with James van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers didn't do line rushes during their morning skate at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, but it's likely that rookie Matt Read will move up from the third line to take Briere's place.
The 25-year-old Read has played well enough to be in the Calder Trophy discussion. He has 11 goals and 9 assists in 30 games with 17:23 of ice time per game. That last number will likely be on the rise tonight, which is something his teammates don't mind at all.
"He's played center before," Scott Hartnell said of Read. "He's good defensively, good down low, battles hard. I think he'll jump in there and do well."
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NEW YORK -- John Tortorella was short and sweet at his pre-game meeting with reporters Thursday, confirming only that Martin Biron would start in net for the Rangers and Jeff Woywitka's foot would keep him out of the lineup.
It will be Biron's eight start of the season, putting him on pace to be the busiest backup goaltender the Rangers have had since Henrik Lundqvist took over the full-time duties in 2006-07. The 34-year-old Biron is 6-1-0 with a 1.82 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
The Rangers will use the same lineup from their 4-1 win in New Jersey on Tuesday. It should look something like this:
NEW YORK -- The Rangers andStars will ice the same lineups Sunday they did in their previous games.
Rangers coach John Tortorella chose to bench Sean Avery in favor of Erik Christensen, and it paid off as Christensen had a power-play assist and won five of six faceoffs in 12:54 of ice time. Henrik Lundqvist will get the start in goal.
The Stars will counter with Richard Bachman, won enters tonight's game with 424 fewer games played than Lundqvist. The 24-year-old Bachman has played in three NHL games and won his first career start Saturday again