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Tortorella pregame: 'We're not far off'

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- Rangers coach John Tortorella met with the media about two hours before Sunday afternoon's Game 3. He didn't reveal specifics of his lineup, but said the same personnel would be employed agains the Capitals. Steven Eminger and Mats Zuccarello will be scratched.

He also touched on how his young players are handling their first Stanley Cup Playoffs, the energy of the home crowd, and the importance of getting a break and scoring a goal.

Q: Do you think the other team's been taking real care to hit Staal all the time?

Tortorella: I'd do it. That's part of playoff hockey.

Q: Is there any way to slow it down?

Tortorella: No. That's part of playoff hockey. We're trying to do the same thing with some of their people. I thought the second game was more physical than the first. You have to play through it. Especially with the new rules, they're targets. You can't hold up. Teams play that way. They try to put it into areas and bang. Do we want our guys hit? No. But I think it's the responsibility of the players also if they can get away from it, get away from it. But you still have to make a play. That's part of winning in playoff hockey. It's taking a hit to make a play.

Q: When you're having trouble scoring, is the first goal more magnified today?

Tortorella: I'm not going to get into magnifying, back up against the wall, that stuff. We're going to play. We know what we have to do, and we're going to try and play.

Q: From Game 1 to Game 2, especially with some of your young guys, did you see a maturation from that first NHL playoff experience? Maybe McDonagh and Sauer in particular. Could you see growth in a short period of time?

Tortorella: I think those two have right from the get-go have just…it's really encouraging. I looked at McDonagh and I think he has to go through a little process where -- it shouldn't have been a penalty -- but that's going to happen.  You can't take a risk. If you're not playing between the whistles, you're taking a risk. I think he'll learn there. But the way he's handled himself, I think he's got some fight to him. You can just see his attitude. I think he has the right attitude. Michael Sauer, the same thing. They've been two of our best as far as handling their first situation. I felt Step played better. Artie Anisimov…you know, I think there is some nerves. But I think as each game goes by, they are getting better. Now it's a new animal coming into MSG here, home building. I'm anxious to see how they react. This is all part of the process of building a team. So I'm glad we're here, and I think we will be better as we keep on going through the series.

Q: Are there parts of their game you can see per shift, per period, per game? I know it's early, but the seeing of it from where you stand.

Tortorella: Improving?

Q: Yeah.

Tortorella: I'll go to Artie because he just sticks out. I thought he really struggled at times and then in the second half of Game 2, he started being more physical. He just seemed more involved. He's an important guy for us. He's a young man that has been given quite a bit of responsibility as a center ice man on this team. I just saw him start growing a little bit in understanding that your game comes in when you start getting around the puck and hitting people. It's very important for Step, also. Step has gone through not a lot of downs, a couple downs early in the season, but once he started getting involved with the body, his game follows behind it. It always is. I think they're improving. I think they'll be…I'm looking forward to them today. Not only those guys, but I think our team is really ready to jump in here and try to grab some momentum.

Q: How do you get to the inside a little bit more? Will this building change things? How can you get your team to the inside to the net?

Tortorella: That's a willingness. It doesn't matter which building. You can be out on the pond playing. It's a matter of trying to get there. It's a matter of trying to funnel shots there to allow people to get there. The series is 2-0, but it's been, at least from my standpoint, either way, it could change. It changes. I think at times, I think we've defended pretty well. Our biggest key is just to get something good to happen for us offensively. I look at their second goal the other night, which was a huge goal. We're defending their power play the right way. It deflects off of Gilroy's skate and right onto Arnott's stick, and he buries it. That's a huge goal. I'm hoping something like that happens for us. Because we're not far off. They can't win the series today, we can't win the series today. But we can grab some momentum. And I think that's the most important thing when you're involved in a series, is trying to get some momentum on your side.

Q: When you look at home-ice advantage, how much of it do you think is the ability to match up as you want, and how much of it is the energy in the building?

Tortorella: You know, the matchups, for me, they're a little overfplayed. They're going to get their matchups. If they want to get their two young defensemen against Gaborik, they'll get'em, if they really work hard at it. We did the same thing with Staal and Girardi. I know we like to talk a lot about those matchups, but as far we're concerned, energy is a very important thing. But you have to be really careful when you come into your home building. You need to have some discipline too. You need to control it, also. I don't need to speak to the team about playing with energy today. It's not happening. I thought after Game 1, we didn't have enough energy. I don't think we had enough jam. Game 2, we were better.  I won't have to talk about that today. It's a matter of keeping it under control because you can't put yourself in a bad spot and allow a power-play goal to hurt you.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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