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Posted On Friday, 03.30.2012 / 1:24 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Canadiens, Rangers

NEW YORK -- Montreal Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth said there will be no lineup changes for their matchup against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

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.

Here are the projected lines for each club:

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Louis Leblanc
Ryan White - Lars Eller - Mike Blunden
Aaron Palushaj - Petteri Nokelainen - Brad Staubitz

Josh Gorges - PK Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Chris Campoli - Frederic St. Denis

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

RANGERS
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Derek Stepan - Artem Anisimov
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, 03.23.2012 / 1:50 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lundqvist looks to refine game heading into playoffs

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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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 12:28 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Leopold, Sabres focused on winning out, getting in

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."

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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 12:06 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Struggling Fedotenko will sit a second straight game

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:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Mats Zuccarello
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Michael Del Zotto
Tim Erixon - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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Posted On Wednesday, 03.21.2012 / 6:18 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Anisimov back in the lineup for Rangers

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.

Anisimov will replace Ruslan Fedotenko, who was injured and played just 8:13 against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night.

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.

Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom skated at Madison Square Garden this morning, but he will not play against the Rangers. Also out of the lineup for the banged-up Red Wings: center Darren Helm (knee), right wing Johan Franzen (back), defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) and defenseman Jakub Kindl (upper body).

Henrik Lundqvist will make his third straight start in net for the Rangers.

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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 12:43 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Quality of play, not position, concerns Rangers

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."

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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 12:40 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Rangers to keep same lineup vs. Devils

NEW YORK -- The Rangers will roll out the same lineup they did last game when they face the New Jersey Devils on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) at Madison Square Garden.

Forward Artem Anisimov (left shoulder) and defenseman Steve Eminger (unknown) will sit again, although Anisimov skated Monday morning and is considered day-to-day. Defenseman Anton Stralman again will be a healthy scratch, with Tim Erixon getting another chance after playing 9:57 over 12 shifts in a 2-1 loss to the Avalanche on Saturday.

Henrik Lundqvist will get the start in net. Here are the Rangers' line combinations from practice:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Mats Zuccarello - Brian Boyle - John Mitchell
Michael Rupp - Ruslan Fedotenko - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Michael Del Zotto
Tim Erixon - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist will start in net, with Martin Biron the backup.
 
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 12:07 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Anisimov healing, but still out

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.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 4:45 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lundqvist, Callahan, Del Zotto back for Rangers

NEW YORK -- Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and defenseman Michael Del Zotto will make their returns from injuries and illness to face the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

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.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Penguins, Rangers

NEW YORK -- The Rangers will be a bit shorthanded while the Penguins will be at full strength for their matchup at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang are back for the Penguins, while Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto won't dress for the Rangers.

The Rangers called up goaltender Chad Johnson for the second straight game to serve as Martin Biron's backup. Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net for the Penguins.

Here are the line combinations from this morning's practices.

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Jordan Staal - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Sidney Crosby - Tyler Kennedy
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Arron Asham

Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Deryk Engelland - Matt Niskanen

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brad Thiessen

RANGERS
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Brandon Dubinsky - Derek Stepan - Artem Anisimov
Mats Zuccarello - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Stu Bickel
Anton Stralman - Steve Eminger

Martin Biron
Chad Johnson

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Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh