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Rangers' Tortorella comfortable with altered lines

by Dan Rosen
STOCKHOLM -- John Tortorella understands the risk he's taking by borrowing from a line he trusts in order to make a line that potentially holds the keys to his future in New York work.

For one night at least, the coach feels comfortable with his decision.

Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov looked at ease playing with Ruslan Fedotenko instead of Brandon Dubinsky throughout the entire game against Los Angeles. They combined for the Rangers' first goal.

Dubinsky looked like he fit right in with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik on the top line. That group worked together to score the go-ahead goal midway through the third period.

"There wasn't much going on early in the game and we were slowed by penalties. I thought we started to do some stuff in the third. We'll just build on that." -- Rangers' center Brad Richards on his line's performance Friday

While that was all the offense the Rangers got in a 3-2 overtime loss Friday at Ericsson Globe Arena, these types of positive signs are what the coach was looking for in the season-opener.

"It's encouraging for one game," Tortorella said. "I thought in the second and third period Brad Richards' line played much better. The first period it was fed to them by (the Kings) top line. It was encouraging as far as how Artie's line was consistent throughout the night."

If Tortorella had his way (and the personnel), he would have kept Callahan and Anisimov with Dubinsky and slotted a different left wing in to play with Richards and Gaborik. But neither Fedotenko, Wojtek Wolski nor and Brian Boyle fit the part there in their preseason tryouts, so the coach was left with no choice in his mind but to play Dubinsky with the superstars.

The good news is that Fedotenko appears to work with Callahan and Anisimov because he's a similar player to Dubinsky -- a physical, forechecking winger who gets deep in the zone, takes the body and can cycle the puck.

"Feds fit in with us perfectly," Callahan said. "Me and Artie are used to playing with each other, and we felt comfortable with Feds. I thought our line was controlling the puck in our end, which we need to do to be successful."

What the Rangers really need is for Gaborik and Richards to work. If it doesn't, they could be in some serious trouble.

"We're not anywhere near where we have to be, but at least we made some progress," Richards said.

Richards prefers to have an up-and-down winger like Dubinsky on the left side because that guy can go down low and battle, giving him time to dive in as well to dig it out and find Gaborik in a shooting position. That's exactly how they produced the go-ahead goal with 9:32 left in regulation Friday night.

Both Dubinsky and Gaborik were behind the net when Richards came down the right wing and got the puck out of the corner. As soon as he did, Dubinsky and Gaborik went in front, with Gaborik curling around Dubinsky to get on the left side. Richards found Dubinsky, who shoveled it over to Gaborik, giving the Slovakian right wing the chance to lift the puck over Jonathan Quick and into the net.

"There wasn't much going on early in the game and we were slowed by penalties," Richards said of his line's work Friday. "I thought we started to do some stuff in the third. We'll just build on that."

Saturday against Anaheim is another challenge for the Rangers' top two lines, especially with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan coming into the building.

The story could change before the Rangers fly home, but for one night at least the future of the top-six looked pretty good.

"We all know if you're going to be a good team you've got to have two good lines going at all times," Richards said. "If we're going to get checked tight, they've got to come right behind us. That's just the reality of it. Some nights it might be vice-versa, but that's how it's gotta work. We've got to keep building."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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