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Brassard making difference since trade to Rangers

by Dave Lozo /

NEW YORK -- The idea behind parting with Marian Gaborik at the NHL Trade Deadline was a simple one for the New York Rangers: Give up the premier goal scorer to become a deeper, more dangerous team overall.

Derick Brassard has made general manager Glen Sather look like a genius since arriving on a last-minute flight from Columbus right before pregame warm-ups on April 3, and the forward continued to excel Thursday against the Florida Panthers, scoring twice in a 6-1 victory at Madison Square Garden.

The 25-year-old has played well enough of late to not only give the Rangers supplemental offense that has been lacking all season, but he has supplanted Brad Richards as the team's No. 2 center. Brassard has had more ice time in each of the past four games than his 32-year-old counterpart and has become a valuable asset on the power play.

In eight games with the Rangers, Brassard has three goals and six assists.

"Honestly, I don't pay attention to points. I just want to play well," Brassard said. "If I can put up some numbers on the board, it's going to be a plus. I just try to bring some energy. It's a new start for me. I'm excited to be here. I know I have another gear in my game that I really didn't show in Columbus. Right now, it's going well, but it's only [eight] games. I need to keep going."

Brassard arrived in the NHL with a lot of hype as the sixth pick in the 2006 NHL Draft. The native of Hull, Quebec, never met expectations with the Columbus Blue Jackets after putting up 25 points in 31 games as a 21-year-old during his 2008-09 season that ended with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

Over his next three seasons, Brassard never played fewer than 74 games but never registered more than 17 goals and 47 points, which he reached in 2010-11. He had seven goals and 18 points in 34 games before he was shipped to New York at the deadline, but he's seemingly morphed into the confident, gifted player many expected him to be on draft day in 2006.

New York forward Rick Nash, who was Brassard's teammate in Columbus for five seasons, said the change of scenery has helped, but the talent that has always been there is starting to bubble to the surface.

"I always thought he was a good player," Nash said. "He's always had the tools and the skill. Sometimes guys just need a change and a fresh start. Maybe it's that. But he's a top-10 pick. There's a reason he was that pick. He's a great player."

Brassard's time with the Rangers hasn't been free of mistakes. Coach John Tortorella said Thursday that while the production has been what the Rangers needed, there are times when Brassard isn't giving it his all on the ice.

Brassard has hardly been a detriment at even strength -- he's been a minus player in one of his eight games with the Rangers -- but it's not surprising Tortorella wants more out of him.

"He can make a play. He's a talented guy," Tortorella said. "He has to learn to play all the time. It's something I think he has to learn to play every shift. I don't think he's used to these types of games, the intensity of the games and a lot of things at stake. That's part of his process. But he's been good on the power play. He doesn't panic with the puck. He makes plays. It's not off the glass. He can make some plays.

"I always thought he was a good player. He's always had the tools and the skill. Sometimes guys just need a change and a fresh start. Maybe it's that. But he's a top-10 pick. There's a reason he was that pick. He's a great player."
-- Rick Nash on Derick Brassard

"He deserves where he's at on the power play. He's earned his spot there. He's really helped us."

Since Brassard arrived, the Rangers' power play has been improved but inconsistent. In five of Brassard's games, the Rangers are 0-for-16. But in his other three games, the Rangers are 7-for-13, including 2-for-4 against the Panthers.

Brassard has been on the ice for six of those seven goals and has picked up a point on four of them. His first-period power-play goal Thursday gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead they would not relinquish.

Defenseman John Moore, who along with injured forward Derek Dorsett, was in Brassard's apartment in Columbus the afternoon of April 3 when he received word they were heading from to New York. Moore and Brassard scrambled to the airport and arrived just in time for the Rangers' game against the Pittsburgh Penguins that night, and Brassard has been flying ever since.

"It's fun to watch," said Moore, who has a goal and two assists with the Rangers and has been a steadying presence as a bottom-pair defenseman. "You see some of the little plays he's making in space with the give-and-gos. His second goal there was just a beautiful play. It's really fun to watch his confidence grow the last couple days.

"I don't know what it was (in Columbus). But we're in a great situation here and his game has really taken off since the trade."


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