NEW YORK - Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards need to improve their "battle level," according to New York Rangers coach John Tortorella -- hence the reason for moving captain Ryan Callahan onto their line for Thursday night's game against the New York Islanders.
Tortorella was frank about the play of his two of his biggest stars this season, especially the skating of Gaborik.
"He needs to help them get the puck because I don't think those two guys are doing a good enough job getting the puck," Tortorella said. "It certainly doesn't take the onus off of them, but I just want to see what that looks like.
"They need to play better."
Tortorella said he didn't like Callahan with Richards last season, but the two played together for a lengthy stretch in 2011-12. In Gaborik's case, Tortorella wants to see him emulate another speedy winger on his club - Carl Hagelin.
"It's a huge part of his game," Tortorella said of Gaborik's speed. "You look at Hagelin. He's second on our team - we keep this stat offensively and defensively and you have a plus/minus, basically (with scoring chances for and against) - he's second behind [Rick] Nash as far as his plus/minus. Hags is at like plus-27, Nash is at plus-31, and Hags hasn't made a whole lot of passes. I'm not criticizing him -- he's done it with his legs. He creates havoc with his legs.
"I just don't understand why Gabby can't do that. I know they're a little different-type players. But Gabby needs to bring that into his game. And he will."
It should also be noted that Tortorella referred to Derek Stepan as the team's first-line center, and his 25:14 of ice time in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout victory in Boston backs up that sentiment; Richards played 19:19.
Tortorella also said making Chris Kreider a healthy scratch and bringing Brian Boyle back into the lineup after sitting him for three games wasn't because Kreider played poorly, but he hadn't done enough good things of late. Rookie J.T. Miller will be moved to the wing with Boyle centering the third line in an effort to lessen the responsibilities on the 19-year-old in his own zone.
Here's what the Rangers' lines will look like as they go for their fourth win in a row.
Carl Hagelin - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
Marian Gaborik - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
J.T. Miller - Brian Boyle - Taylor Pyatt
Arron Asham - Jeff Halpern - Darroll Powe
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Matt Gilroy
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