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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:40 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 6 lineup for Rangers

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:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Derek Stepan - Brandon Prust
Chris Kreider -John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:36 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Richards living up to billing as big-game player

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."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:30 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Fedotenko feels Rangers should come out aggressive

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."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 5:12 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Stralman has refined game since joining Rangers

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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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 12:52 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 5 lineup for Rangers

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.

Forward Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) also didn't participate in practice and hasn't played since Game 7 against the Ottawa Senators in the first round.

Here's the expected lineup for the Rangers, who shuffled their lines a lot toward the end of Game 4, so consider this an educated guess.

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:22 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Rangers lines at Friday's practice

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:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Chris Kreider
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrk Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:16 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Caps back at practice knowing season not over yet

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:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Brooks Laich - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:02 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Mitchell relieved to finally get some pucks on net

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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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 12:50 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Rangers pay visit to Arlington National Cemetery

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.

Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh were also part of the group.

"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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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:12 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Torts on fatigue, Lundqvist, Callahan and more

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.

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