MONTREAL -- The New York Rangers sounded very much like a desperate hockey team Saturday morning as they prepared to play the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.
Coach John Tortorella was still lamenting his team’s effort in a 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, citing it as a glaring example of a problem that has plagued the Rangers all season long.
Tortorella said he was happy with the way the Rangers played in a 5-2 victory at the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. But his disappointment that it didn’t carry over to Thursday’s game was compounded by the fact the season is racing toward its completion.
“There is time here, but we’re running out of it as far as our consistency,” Tortorella said. “That’s been the tough one for us as a group. We see glimpses but then we take a step backwards.”
He again referenced the contrast between the game in Philadelphia and the game in Ottawa, emphasizing how that needs to be resolved.
“We can’t keep on taking steps backwards,” he said. “We’re out of time for that.”
Tortorella and the rest of the Rangers hope the return of Norwegian forward Mats Zuccarello can at least address part of the problem, a serious lack of scoring. But Zuccarello, who spent this season playing in the Kontinental Hockey League with Mettalurg Magnitogorsk, warns not to expect him to perform miracles.
“It’s not like we’re going to win the Stanley Cup because I’m coming back. I’m not Gretzky,” Zuccarello said. “But I can try and do my job and maybe create a spark.”
For the Canadiens, Brandon Prust will return to the lineup after missing eight games with a separated shoulder, bumping out Mike Blunden. Rookie defenseman Nathan Beaulieu will become the third Montreal defense prospect in three weeks to make his NHL debut. The No. 17 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft will play alongside Francis Bouillon and should see some time on the power play.
Martin Biron will start in goal for the Rangers against Carey Price, who has a 2-0-0 record with a .976 save percentage and 0.50 goals-against average against the Rangers this season.
The Rangers held an optional skate Saturday, so these are their lines from Friday’s practice; the Canadiens held a full skate Saturday morning.
Carl Hagelin - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
Chris Kreider - Brad Richards - Mats Zuccarello
Brian Boyle - J.T. Miller – Ryan Callahan
Taylor Pyatt - Kris Newbury - Marian Gaborik
Michael Del Zotto - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Steve Eminger
Roman Hamrlik - Anton Stralman
Michael Ryder – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk – Lars Eller – Brandon Prust
Travis Moen – Jeff Halpern – Colby Armstrong
Josh Gorges – P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov – Alexei Emelin
Francis Bouillon – Nathan Beaulieu