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After Week of Practice, Rangers Aim to Improve

by Matthew Calamia / New York Rangers

On the surface, there appears little cause for concern for the Rangers, who stand tied atop the Metropolitan Division at 6-2-2.

But the players and head coach Alain Vigneault knows more is needed from top to bottom as this young season hits the winter time and the rust comes off.

"We have a very accountable group. A very mature group that in my estimation, understands the game," Vigneault said Friday morning, hours before his team returned to action after four days of rest and practice. "If you were to ask our players, to a man, if they feel their game is where it can be, you'll probably get a negative response on that.

"They know they can be better," Vigneault added. "I have a lot of faith and trust in them and that's why we're working and we're trying to get better."

The team spent the week at the MSG Training Center, on the ice and in the video room, working on the "areas that we needed to work on," according to Vigneault. It was the first stretch the Rangers have had to practice since the season began on Oct. 7 in Chicago, as New York opened with 10 games in 19 days, including two sets of back-to-backs and two sets of three games in four nights.

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been one of a handful of players Vigneault has said has played well out of the gate this season. Lundqvist echoed Vigneault's assessment that despite positive results in the standings, there is work that needs to be done.

"I think the start's been OK," said Lundqvist, who is 4-2-2 with a .941 save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average. "We've been getting points most nights, but at the same time, we feel we can improve as a team. We had some meetings this week and focused on good practice. Now we're playing a team that's looking for ag ood flow here, so they're going play a desperate game, I think. It's going to be good challenge for us."

Lundqvist said that despite the desire to play better hockey, he's more pleased that the team is still finding ways to win.

"I don't think anyone expects it to be perfect right away," Lundqvist said. "You build your game as the season goes on, but it's important that you find ways to win. Even when you're on a good stretch and you feel like you're playing great, you're going to have games where you don't play amazing but you find ways. That's more important, I think, than to play great right now. It's just finding ways. It's a strength in itself."

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With tonight's start, Lundqvist will tie Toronto's Turk Broda for 7th place all-time among goalie appearances with one franchise with 628 games.

"Every time you pass someone ... talking about these big legends, of course it means a lot," Lundqvist said. "At the same time, you kind of just focus on the game and what's going on right now. When you do retire, it's nice to compare yourself" to those players.

"It's been a great ride for me so far in New York," he added, "being surrounded by great players and great people all the time."

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