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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 12:46 PM

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

Projected Game 3 lineup for Rangers

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.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist also made it known he has zero interest in discussing the ice time of Caps star Alex Ovechkin.

"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.

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Artem Anisimov - 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, 05.02.2012 / 12:32 PM

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

Rangers bring road show to Washington

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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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 4:12 PM

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

Del Zotto becoming bigger factor from blue line

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."

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 3:58 PM

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

Boyle feels fine, wants to improve upon return effort

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."

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 3:42 PM

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

Girardi sees own minutes drop with Ovi's reduced role

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."

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.30.2012 / 7:20 PM

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

Boyle returns to Rangers' lineup for Game 2

NEW YORK -- After a three-game absence, Brian Boyle is back in the Rangers' lineup for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Washington Capitals on Monday night.

Brian Boyle
Center - NYR
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 3
SOG: 18 | +/-: 0
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.
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POSTED ON Monday, 04.30.2012 / 12:42 PM

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

Projected Game 2 lineups

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.

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

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

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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.

Hunter swapped wingers Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin on the top line, but Brouwer said afterward they will be in their normal spots. Here's what the Capitals will likely go with trailing 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.

CAPITALS

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

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

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.30.2012 / 12:10 PM

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

Rangers have responded to Tortorella's coaching style

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."

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.30.2012 / 11:42 AM

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

Boyle skates, status for Game 2 uncertain

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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POSTED ON Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 2:38 PM

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

Holtby looks to 'learn' for Game 2

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."

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It's hard to walk into that locker room and look those guys in the eye when they've played -- clearly, that was our best game we've played in the series -- and I thought we deserved a better fate tonight.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on his team's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens in Game 3 on Sunday