NEW YORK -- When John Tortorella took over as coach of the New York Rangers
last February, he had 21 regular-season games before the playoffs to implement his system.
He was forced to give his players the Cliff's Notes version of what he wanted. But when training camp opened last month, the players got chapter and verse on just how a Tortorella team is expected to play. That includes the 10 newcomers this season who are trying to pick up the nuances of Tortorella's systems on the fly.
Aiding the newcomers, though, is one of their own. Vaclav Prospal is no stranger to Tortorella's demands, having played parts of five seasons for Tortorella with the Tampa Bay Lightning. So when Tortorella gets barking, Prospal is the perfect translator from coach to player.
"He knows him," Marian Gaborik
said. "We talk about it a little bit."
That's just what Tortorella wants to hear.
"We're trying to define how we're going to play," Tortorella said. "Vinny Prospal went through that with us when I had him in Tampa, in trying to teach this type of system. … I think he's going to help us there and I hope he does. I hope he has the wherewithal to, in his own way, have them understand. He's been through it. He understands how we're playing. I hope he does voice his thoughts to the guys as we play through this and really define our identity as a hockey team.
"Vinny understands me. We've had many ups and downs. He understands what's expected. … He's grown. I'm good friends with him now. I've known him a long time. We fought like dogs (but) we also have a mutual respect. I hope he understands how important it is to translate that. I think that needs to happen because the coaches can't be in the (locker) room all the time. If you're going to win in this League that room has to sustain itself, not from the coach. It has to sustain itself."
Prospal said he hasn't had to do too much talking because he thinks his teammates are adjusting just fine.
"Sometimes they ask me how tough he gets when he's mad," Prospal said. When asked what he says then, he laughed and said, "I think we've already seen that."
There was little for him to be mad about Saturday night. The top line of Gaborik, Prospal and Brandon Dubinsky
combined for four of the Rangers' five goals in a 5-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators
Rangers rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto
scored his first NHL goal, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
was terrific in stopping 32 of 34 shots.
and Peter Regin
scored for the Senators, and goaltender Pascal Leclaire, in his first game since last December, made 29 saves, including 13 in the first period.
Dubinsky had a pair of goals and an assist, and Tortorella said he's seeing a different player than the one he inherited last season.
"I think he wants to prove that he's worth what he got (new contract)," the coach said. "That's not a bad thing. I don't begrudge him that at all. He is playing … he just has a different look about him, even when he's not playing, how he's handling himself. He's got to keep a straight line, he has to keep the right attitude and not get in the wrong type of arrogance. He has the right type of arrogance right now. He's played very well."
As has his line, which has five of the club's seven goals in its first two games.
"We seem to understand each other well out there," Gaborik said. "Just a matter of communication and making sure we know where we stand out there. … (Dubinsky) is strong on the puck, he's carrying the puck in the neutral zone. I just try to get open. We're good down behind their goal line in their zone. If we can be a little better defensively we can create a lot of 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s."
--Adam Kimelman, NHL.com Staff Writer