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Rangers goal: Get more goals

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- The Rangers have one goal right now -- get some more goals.

Scoring has been a problem for the Rangers during a 4-10-1 stretch that has turned their once-promising playoff chances into a major question mark. The Rangers were in fifth place in the Eastern Conference on Jan. 25, seven points clear of the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes.

But with just 35 goals in 15 games, the Rangers have plummeted to eighth place in the East, just two points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres, who have three games in hand.

"We just have to find a way to put a few of our chances in the back of the net," said forward Brandon Dubinsky, who has just three goals in his past 23 games. "I am relied upon. I definitely have to feel the pressure. I have to find a way to use that pressure to get excited and elevate my game rather than let it wear on me."

Dubinsky is not alone in his struggles.

* Brian Boyle has 2 goals in 14 games after scoring 18 in his first 51 games.

* Mats Zuccarello is more of a playmaker, but 3 goals in 30 games isn't cutting it.

* Marian Gaborik had 2 goals in 13 games before suffering a concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 20.

According to coach John Tortorella, some players are feeling the pressure.

"I think some guys are already," Tortorella said. "Am I worried about that? Sure, because I think they care. Guys that care when they're not getting done, they try to do more, and that's what pressing is."

It also doesn't help when the Rangers are running into hot goaltenders -- as was the case during a three-game losing streak, with all the losses coming at Madison Square Garden.

Tampa Bay's Dwayne Roloson, who is in the midst of a three-game stretch where's he's allowed only four goals, made 22 saves in a 2-1 win against the Rangers on Feb. 27. Two nights later, Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was magnificent in making 29 saves in a 3-2 victory.

But Wild goaltender Jose Theodore took the Rangers' frustrations to a whole new level Thursday.

The backup made 40 saves, including a highlight-reel stop on Callahan that kept the Wild within one goal and allowed them to mount a comeback that resulted in a 3-1 victory. Theodore made 33 saves in the final two periods to preserve the victory.

The last thing Tortorella wants to do, however, is place the blame for his team's struggles on some unfortunate matchups.

"I don't want us to lean on bad luck," Tortorella said. "We have to put that out of our mind. I don't think we're getting a whole bunch of bounces. But we can't wait for bounces. We have to find a way to score a goal."
A side effect of the lack of scoring is the added pressure on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to be perfect. With backup Martin Biron out for the season with a broken collarbone and an inexperienced backup in Chad Johnson, there doesn't seem to be much of a chance for Lundqvist to get a break during the final 16 games of the season.
While players like Dubinsky admit they're feeling the pressure to score, Lundqvist is trying to avoid letting the pressure of constantly playing in low-scoring games get to him.
"It's definitely a challenge not to get frustrated," Lundqvist said. "It is not a good time to lose three at home. If you watch the games, we worked hard. That is not the issue. I think it is frustrating for everybody. The last couple of weeks, the puck seems to be bouncing on a lot of guys. I feel pretty sharp and am doing the right things out there. I think we are all trying to stay positive."

Gaborik will travel with the team to Ottawa for Friday's game against the Senators, but he's not likely to play. Without a top-tier scorer, the Rangers are a collection of hard-working players who aren't adept at finishing chances.

If the Rangers want to hold off the hard-charging Sabres for that final playoff spot in the East, something needs to change immediately.

"We just have to find a way to put a few of our chances in the back of the net," Dubinsky said. "Something has to give. I have to score a goal. I have to score a big goal for us. I am going to continue to work until that gives."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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