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Rangers discover their offense

by Dan Rosen
BERN, Switzerland – Hello offense, and where have you been?

The Rangers welcomed back their offense Tuesday night in a dominating 8-1 victory over SC Bern, one of the top hockey clubs in Switzerland. The Blueshirts scored six power-play goals, including twice on a 5-on-3.

For a team that left North America with a 1-5 preseason record thanks to only 12 goals in the six games, the outburst was welcomed with open arms. Who the opponent was didn't matter.

"It was big for our confidence especially, but it was a good stepping stone for us," Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky said. "We're heading into the regular season in less than a week so it was a big opportunity for us to get our wheels moving and make sure we're ready to go. We're pretty happy with that.'

Even so, Rangers coach Tom Renney said the power-play, which converted on six of nine advantages, was trying to be "too cute" sometimes. Against SC Bern it worked, but against NHL competition, and maybe even Metallurg Magnitogorsk on Wednesday night, it won't.

"The net is still at the end of the rink, not on the side boards," Renney said. "We have to go north and south, and at times we didn't. The very good teams attack right away. When we embraced that again I thought we took the game over quite honestly."

The Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but former NHLer Travis Roche cut it to one with a goal just 1:02 into the third period. The Rangers, though, scored two power-play goals within 27 seconds to make it 4-1 less than four minutes later.

They took off from there, scoring another four times, including twice more on the power play. Dubinsky finished with a pair of goals and Dan Girardi, Wade Redden, Chris Drury, Petr Prucha, Corey Potter and Lauri Korpikoski each scored one.

"I'm sure it's a big weight off of the few of the guys," goalie Stephen Valiquette said.

Part of the job – Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said he bruised his right hand in Saturday's game against the New Jersey Devils when he went down to block Brian Rolston's slap shot during a Devils' 5-on-3 power play in the first period.

"I went down and it hit me in the knuckle," Staal said after a long on-ice workout Tuesday morning. "It's not broken, just swollen. I feel a lot better."

Staal was held out of the lineup against SC Bern, but said he hopes to play Wednesday against Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Victoria Cup game. He said the injury wouldn't have caused him to miss a regular season game.

"Passing and stick handling is OK, but as soon as I start shooting and moving my stick around with one hand it hurt quite a bit," Staal said. "(Wednesday) it should be good. I hope to play."

Home team advantage – As part of the blended IIHF and NHL rules that are being enforced here in Bern, the home team always goes into the faceoff circle last no matter where the draw is taking place.

Renney was non-committal on his thoughts on that rule.

"The faceoff thing is one I have always found interesting internationally," he said prior to the game. "If you have a good faceoff team, that's a pretty good advantage for a home team."

The IIHF did not keep the faceoff stats.

Asked if he's a fan of no-touch icing, another IIHF rule that is being enforced, Renney said he's more of a fan of the NHL rulebook on icing, but only now because the rule has been redefined.

"If you find you're going to compromise your opponent in pursuit of the puck, that's bad stuff," Renney said. "I do believe we have to allow for the race in the game. I think it keeps offense alive, but it can't be at the risk of injury. Play within the rules, and that's fine."

Rangers' lineup – Defenseman Paul Mara, goalie Miika Wiikman and forwards Markus Naslund and Nigel Dawes joined Staal as the Rangers' scratches.

Renney paired defensemen Potter and Brian Fahey together. Potter and Fahey are likely battling for the job as the Rangers' seventh defenseman. One will most likely be reassigned after Wednesday's game.

Henrik Lundqvist, who is expected to start Wednesday, dressed as Stephen Valiquette's backup. Scott Gomez and Chris Drury stayed together with Gomez as the center. Petr Prucha took Naslund's spot on the Rangers' assumed top line.

Patrick Rissmiller didn't practice Tuesday because Renney said he was feeling under the weather.

Pilar: Jagr is happyKarel Pilar, a Czech-born defenseman for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, said he spoke with Jaromir Jagr earlier this month when Metallurg played Avangard Omsk and reports the former Rangers' captain likes playing in the KHL.

"He had some problems from the start of the season, but they changed the coach and now they have won five times in a row. I would say he's pretty happy right now." -- Karel Pilar

"I know him and I think he's happy," Pilar said. "He had some problems from the start of the season, but they changed the coach and now they have won five times in a row. I would say he's pretty happy right now."

Pilar added that Jagr's presence "is good for the league over there. He's a special player for sure. He's giving the league a good name."

Staying after all – We reported Monday that the Rangers were going to send two players back to North America after Wednesday night's game, but Renney suggested they may instead bring all 26 players here to Prague.

Still, two players will still have to be reassigned to Hartford or released after Wednesday's game to get their roster down to NHL regular season standards.

"I think we'll just keep guys here and work with them," Renney said. "They have to be assigned, but we'll work with them here."

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