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Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 3:40 PM

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

Torts left to pray top-six forwards see fortunes turn

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.

Following a brief practice at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Tortorella was asked what he can do to get top-six forwards like Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin going during the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tortorella's one-word answer was, "Pray."

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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Posted On Monday, 05.21.2012 / 12:14 PM

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

Game 4 lineup for Rangers likely to feature Bickel

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.

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

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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Posted On Monday, 05.21.2012 / 11:52 AM

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

Stralman shrugs off alleged illegal hit by Zubrus

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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Posted On Sunday, 05.20.2012 / 1:36 PM

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

Dubinsky back on the ice at Rangers practice

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."

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Posted On Sunday, 05.20.2012 / 1:33 PM

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

Tortorella fires back on 'headhunter' comment

NEW YORK -- On Saturday, Devils coach Peter DeBoer referred to the Rangers' Brandon Prust as a "headhunter" after his blow to the back of the head of defenseman Anton Volchenkov.

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."

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Posted On Friday, 05.18.2012 / 2:02 PM

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

Seeking size, Rangers move Rupp to third line

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.

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Mike Rupp
Ruslan Fedotenko - 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, 05.18.2012 / 1:54 PM

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

Dubinsky back at practice, no timetable for return

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.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 12:49 PM

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

Rangers keeping things the same for Game 2

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:

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 Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 4:23 PM

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

Rangers call up six players

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers announced that six players will join the club from Connecticut of the American Hockey League for the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- defensemen Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath, goaltender Cam Talbot and forwards J.T. Miller, Kris Newbury and Casey Wellman.

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.

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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 1:06 PM

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

Projected Game 1 lineup for Rangers

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.

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

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.

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Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players