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Tortorella holds first practice as New York Rangers head coach

Tuesday, 02.24.2009 / 3:38 PM / News

The Canadian Press

NEW YORK - John Tortorella made his presence felt right away during his first day as coach of the New York Rangers.

He went to work on the practice rink Tuesday morning, along with new assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld, as they worked to change the philosophy and tenor of a team that is struggling to hold onto a place in the playoffs.

"I just want them to relax a bit here," said Tortorella, hired Monday after Tom Renney was fired. "The team has been a little paralyzed through all the things going on with the club. We're going to work through it together.

"My biggest question is how much do we give them in a short period of time. There are 20-plus games left. I don't want to confuse them anymore."

The laid-back Renney ran out of time in his quest to turn around the Rangers' sinking season. With only 21 games remaining and a playoff spot slipping away, general manager Glen Sather replaced Renney with the combustible Tortorella - a Stanley Cup-winning coach with the perfectly opposite temperament he sought.

"This reputation that I just kick the hell out of people, it takes on a life of its own," Tortorella said. "As a coach you'd better understand what your team is right now as far as how they feel.

"They need to get a little self confidence. We're going to allow them to try to work through that and try to find a way to get a win."

Renney was dismissed in the midst of the Rangers' freefall that has seen the team drop 10 of 12 (2-7-3) and slide into a fifth-place tie in the Eastern Conference.

In 6 1/2 seasons, Tortorella posted a mark of 239-222-36-38. His new task is to salvage the season for the Rangers (31-23-7).

Under Tortorella, everyone is held accountable whether you are a veteran on a long-term deal or a rookie playing for the NHL minimum.

"New coach, new guy, new style," said forward Scott Gomez, who saw several coaching changes while playing for New Jersey. "I've gone through this before. We've got to wake up. It's going to be different and we've got to adjust.

"One thing about him is you can't take anything personal. It's his way, and if you don't do it you don't play. I've grown up in a system like that."

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