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Rangers have an excuse for struggling power play

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- Excuses are typically seen as signs of weakness in a team or player, but the New York Rangers can make a case for an airtight excuse for their struggling power play.

They worked throughout training camp with Dan Boyle on the right point, quarterbacking both units, but that lasted all of about 43 minutes. Boyle broke his hand in the third period of the season-opener Oct. 9. The Rangers have scored two power play goals in 19 chances since.

New York already was playing without center Derek Stepan, who sustained a fractured leg in training camp. It is 2-for-23 on the power play this season (8.7 percent).

"I don't want to use that as an excuse," Vigneault said Saturday, "but we did work throughout training camp with a different set up and having Dan jump over the boards first and run whichever unit we were going to go with. Losing him in the first game, since then we've had to look for adjustments."

Those adjustments have included changes to each power-play unit, trying five lefties on one and three righties on the other, and using Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and John Moore as the power-play quarterback.

None of it has seemed to work.

"Those are pretty big pieces," Martin St. Louis said of Boyle and Stepan. "To get the swagger on the PP obviously you want results and we haven't found results. I think to get results you need to get the trust with the people you're out there with, knowing what they're going to do, what's their next play. You anticipate. It's all about anticipating the next play and obviously funneling the puck toward the net. We haven't really found that yet, that chemistry of just trusting we know what's coming, that there are no surprises. That comes with time. It's just a different look. Sometimes you have the puzzle but you have to make the pieces work."

Making it harder on the Rangers is the fact that they're not drawing nearly enough power play opportunities.

They're last in the NHL with 23 power play opportunities. They're averaging 2.55 power plays per game. They have had two or fewer power plays in four of nine games. They had more than three once, when they went 0-for-5 against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 16.

"We spend a lot of time in that area but it doesn't happen that often in a game," Vigneault said. "We're not getting much rhythm there."

To compensate the Rangers spent time this past week working on every detail of the power play. They had three practices between games against the Wild on Monday and the Jets on Saturday.

"We work on it a lot, but at the end of the day every power play starts the same way, off the faceoff," St. Louis said.

The Rangers have won 26 of 50 faceoffs on the power play.

"You win those faceoffs, you get early shots, you retrieve, you're going to get early chances," St. Louis said. "That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to establish a shot, which we haven't done consistently. Once you establish a shot everything else opens. We just haven't done that consistently."


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