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Rangers focused on net presence at both ends of ice

by Dan Rosen /

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has been talking about net presence since late Thursday night, shortly after his team took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He's had two reasons to make net presence his central point of emphasis:

Vigneault thinks the Penguins had too much of it in Game 1, and he wants the Rangers to generate more of it in Game 2 on Saturday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Rangers won 2-1 in Game 1.

"There's no doubt that in the last game we had a lot of good looks, but some of those looks would be better if we have a better net presence and a little bit more traffic going to the net," Vigneault said. "It's always more challenging on our goaltender, and it's definitely one of the areas that we talked about with our group."

As much as Vigneault wants the Rangers to get closer to Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, he wasn't happy with the amount the Penguins crashed the crease and at times into goalie Henrik Lundqvist in Game 1.

Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz was called for goalie interference in the first period, but Vigneault said there was activity in the blue paint even after the whistle.

The Penguins' goal in Game 1 partially was a result of Penguins forward Maxim Lapierre battling in the blue paint with Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle, creating traffic in front of Lundqvist, who typically plays deep in the crease.

"[Lundqvist] plays in the blue paint," Vigneault said. "When he gets hit, the blue paint is the goaltender. There was a lot of stuff from certain of their players that we knew was going to happen after the whistle. We hope the referees are going to see it and call it. We're going to play whistle to whistle and be a very disciplined team."

Vigneault said he hopes he doesn't have to talk to the officials about the crease crashing.

"Anybody who has followed the Rangers for the past 10 years with Henrik in goal knows that he's one of the goaltenders that plays in the blue paint," Vigneault said. "The League has a mandate to protect the goaltenders. If he gets bumped or hit it's the referee's responsibility, the League's responsibility, to make sure he's protected. But this is something we've gone through for 82 games and something we've gone through for each playoff game that we play. It's nothing new. It's there and you deal with it."

The Penguins don't see it as a big deal.

"A lot of the stuff that happened with Lundqvist for me was a loose puck in the crease and our guys are going after a loose puck," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "It's sitting there, it's available, and players have free reign to play that puck. I didn't see other than the [Kunitz] one where the puck wasn't there and we actually bumped or hindered Lundqvist from moving in the net. I didn't think there was any of that."

The Rangers insist they're not looking to bump Fleury, but they'd certainly like to shield his vision in Game 2.

"That five feet around the net is so important," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "We've got to do a job making sure we let [Lundqvist] see pucks and on the other side of it too we've got to make sure we do cause some traffic in front of Fleury. He's too good of a goalie to allow him to see every puck. If he sees them he's going to save them. We've got to try our best to make sure he's not seeing them because he's too good."

Here are the projected lineups:


Daniel Winnik - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - David Perron

Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie

Nick Spaling - Maxim Lapierre - Blake Comeau

Paul Martin - Ben Lovejoy

Rob Scuderi - Ian Cole

Taylor Chorney - Brian Dumoulin

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Scott Harrington, Craig Adams, Scott Wilson

Injured: Christian Ehrhoff (upper body), Kris Letang (concussion), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (upper body), Derrick Pouliot (upper body)


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller

Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Matt Hunwick

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Chris Summers, James Sheppard

Injured: Kevin Klein (left arm)

Status report: Klein took part in the Rangers' optional morning skate Saturday but he still is considered day-to-day. Vigneault said he did not know if Klein would be cleared to practice Sunday. "We're waiting to see how the pain will be for the rest of the day," Vigneault said. Klein has missed 17 consecutive games because of a broken left arm. … The Rangers will use the same lineup for Game 2 as they used in Game 1.

Who's hot: McDonagh has two goals and seven assists in his past nine games, including his game-winning power-play goal in Game 1. He has five goals and 13 assists in his past 16 playoff games, dating to last season's run to the Stanley Cup Final.


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