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Dunham Focused as he Returns to Music City

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

No wonder he hasn't had time to really reflect on his return to Nashville on Thursday. Since arriving from the Predators on December 12, Mike Dunham has started 16 of the Rangers' 17 games - posting an impressive 8-6-2 mark - while helping to lead the Blueshirts back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

New York looks to ride Dunham's recent hot streak as they head to Music City on Thursday for a showdown with the Preds.

Much of the Rangers' recent success stems from a disciplined, tenacious brand of hockey that the team has adhered to. The Blueshirts have won five of their last seven games and now trail the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins by two points for the eighth spot in the East.

"We've been playing our system well and working hard," Dunham said following Wednesday's practice at the MSG Training Center. "We're getting scoring chances and wins. We've got a long way to go, but hopefully we'll keep building on it. We need to keep working hard and playing great team defense and be ready to play every night."

Dunham is as much the reason for the Rangers recent surge as anyone. The former Predator has been nothing short of stellar for a team that lost Mike Richter for the season due to a concussion and was forced to ride 19-year old Dan Blackburn for a span of 18 consecutive starts in November and December. Dunham has provided the Rangers with a stabilizing brand of goaltending that, at the very least, has given the club the opportunity to win every game.

"Mike gives us a chance to win every night," said Rangers forward Matthew Barnaby. "He's made the key saves for us and that's all you can really ask of any goaltender."

The Johnson City, New York native, who spent the last four-and-a-half seasons in Nashville, isn't worried about getting caught up in any hype that might surround his return to the city that entered the NHL during the 1998-99 season.

"It's just another game," he said of his return. "We're fighting for points right now. I'm not going to do anything different. I had a great time down there and they gave me a chance to play. But I'm excited to be playing here in New York."

Dunham, who has posted a 5-1-0 mark in his last six games and has registered a pair of shutouts in his last nine appearences, is nothing but complimentary of the opportunity to play a major role in the development of the Nashville organization that selected him from the New Jersey Devils in the 1998 NHL Expansion Draft.

"In Nashville, we were starting from scratch," he recalled of his start in Music City. "They did a great job of teaching the fans the rules of hockey. It's a different approach on how to sell the game there and build an organization. And they've done a great job. The fans there are great. They have 'taken to' hockey and really enjoy the sport."

Dunham, who backstopped a 5-0 blanking of the New York Islanders last night, hasn't had much time to think about how it will feel to slap on the pads in the visiting dressing room at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on Thursday.

"It seems that we've played so many games since I've arrived here that I haven't had time to really reflect on it (the trade). I'll always have great memories of my time in Nashville but I look forward to great memories here in New York."


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