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Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 2:31 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Madden has something to prove with Panthers

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."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 5:56 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - Live from New Year's Day practices

McDonagh skips practice with flu, but will play Classic

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."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 12:30 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - Classic Preparations

Broten puts hunting on hold for Classic

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."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 6:07 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - Classic Preparations

Memories of Mike Keenan run deep for Ranger alum

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."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 1:12 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Staal cleared for contact, closer to return

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.
Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 12:12 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Tortorella expects strong start from Rangers

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:

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

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Tim Erixon - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron
Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 5:20 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Rangers, Flyers

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:

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

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Tim Erixon - Stu Bickell

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

The Flyers, meanwhile, will be without Danny Briere against the Rangers. Again, the Flyers didn't reveal their lines at Friday morning's practice, but they could look this way:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
James van Riemsdyk - Matt Read - Wayne Simmonds
Tom Sestito - Maxime Talbot - Jakub Voracek
Jody Shelley - Harry Zolnierczyk - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Luc Bourdon
Andrej Meszaros - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky
Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 1:10 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Rangers continuing to excel in back-to-back sets

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."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 12:48 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Bruised hand sidelines Briere vs. Rangers

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.

For Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, it's just business as usual.

"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."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

Posted On Thursday, 12.22.2011 / 5:25 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Biron spells Lundqvist as Rangers face Isles

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:

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

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel
Tim Erixon - Anton Stralman

Martin Biron
Henrik Lundqvist

In the Islanders' 3-2 shootout win in Winnipeg on Tuesday, goaltender Al Montoya and forward David Ullstrom were lost due to concussions. Micheal Haley was recalled from the AHL to take Ullstrom's spot, while Evgeni Nabokov will make the start.

The Islanders lines will likely look this way:

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Matt Martin - Josh Bailey - Tim Wallace
Micheal Haley - Marty Reasoner - Nino Niederreiter

Mark Streit - Milan Jurcina
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Mike Mottau

Evgeni Nabokov
Anders Nilsson

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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