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Complacency not a concern for Tortorella

by Dave Lozo
NEWARK, N.J. -- With the Rangers sitting atop the League standings, eight points clear of the Penguins and 12 points ahead of the Bruins with less than 20 games to play, it wouldn't be out of the question for complacency to set in with a young team.

Rangers coach John Tortorella, however, doesn't see that being a problem at all over the final month of the season.

"Not with this team," said Tortorella, whose Rangers will face the Devils at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night. "This team is a group that understands that if we're going to continue to compete, we need to work every day. I trust the group understands that. We've got a lot of things to work on."

Tortorella admitted that all of his teams haven't been free of lackadaisical play. Without naming the specific team, Tortorella said that was a problem when he was coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning when they were a young team still learning about what it takes to win consistently in the NHL.

"I will say early on with the last team I coached, there were some struggles understanding how to keep your level up, but that's part of a process with a young team," said Tortorella, who is now coaching one of the youngest teams in the NHL. "I think our team has gone through a process. The best way I can put it -- I trust our guys. Our leadership group and how they've worked with their identity and the level of play that needs to be there at all times in the season. I trust them.

"I think you're going to have some struggles here and there. I think you need to be really careful when a team starts losing some games, everyone says the readiness isn't there. There's a lot of different ways you lose and win hockey games. I can only speak on my behalf."

Tortorella said the Rangers, who are 13-3-3 in their last 19 games, had an extensive film session before taking the ice for practice Tuesday morning.

"You have to," Tortorella said. "I'm being honest. I think if you don't continue to work on even the good parts of your game, let alone the ones you're struggling with, it slips. We just spent 40 minutes with tape this morning as far as some of the details of our game that I feel has slipped. That's the way this coaching staff operates. We want to continue to get better and stay consistent."

There's always lessons for young teams that when you win five or six, you can't get complacent. You need to keep it level. "

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist spoke of the different feeling at this time of the season compared to the previous two, when the Rangers were fighting just to get in the playoffs.

"When you just think about what you have to do, a lot of times you get more points because you play better," Lundqvist said. "Your mindset is not, you have to get points. It just get, get your game better and improve your game and the rest will take care of itself. I think our mindset has been good all year."

Brad Richards, who played under Tortorella in Tampa during all seven of their seasons there, said the Rangers have been in nearly the same spot for three weeks, so if complacency was going to show up, it would have already.

"We could've done that for a little while now and put ourselves back in a battle," said Richards, who cited that Pittsburgh has been playing very well of late. "We've been aware of that. It can still happen very quickly. A bad week with the amount of hockey we're playing -- we're playing pretty much four games a week in March (17 games total) -- you put in a bad week of work and you don't know what can happen."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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