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Prospal-less Rangers stay on a roll

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Complete Training Camp Coverage

By Jim Cerny,

The big news from Friday night’s preseason game at Madison Square Garden against the visiting Ottawa Senators was supposed to be about roster battles, line combinations, and fine-tuning head coach John Tortorella’s team concept with opening night just one week away.

Instead the main focus turned to a player who, surprisingly, was unable to play in the game.

Vinny Prospal, one of the Rangers’ alternate captains and the club’s second-leading scorer last season, was scheduled to appear in his first game of the preseason on Friday night after having been held out of the team’s initial four contests with a sore knee. However, Prospal was scratched from the lineup and paid a visit to the doctor when that knee swelled up again early on Friday.

Center Erik Christensen, who filled in on the No. 1 line for the injured Vinny Prospal on Friday, ended up beating Ottawa's Brian Elliott for the shootout-deciding goal in an exciting 5-4 Rangers victory.
“It’s a concern because it’s been a lingering thing,” said Tortorella, who discussed the bad news prior to the Rangers 5-4 shootout victory over Ottawa. “I’m not going to lie, it’s a concern. It’s still aggravating him.”

Tortorella added after the game that Prospal definitely will not play on Saturday evening when the Rangers face the Senators up in Ottawa, and that the 35-year-old forward will be kept off the ice to rest the knee for a couple of weeks.

“It’s a situation that we want to approach conservatively because it’s not so much pain, but swelling that goes on in there,” said Tortorella. “We want him to rest it, then we’ll skate him in a couple of weeks and see what happens.”

On Thursday an upbeat Prospal said he was looking forward to playing both games against the Senators this weekend and that he felt it was important for him to see some game action prior to next Friday’s season opener in Buffalo.

“We would like to get him some game action, but it’s out of our control,” said Tortorella. “He’s frustrated because he wants to play. But this is the best thing. He’s going to work out, keep his strength up, but as far as the knee is concerned we’re going to leave it alone for a couple of weeks and see how it reacts.”

With team captain Chris Drury sidelined with a broken left index finger, the Rangers now have two key veterans who enter the 2010-11 campaign having missed the entire preseason. Tortorella speculated before the game that Drury would start the season on the injured reserve list, but that decision has yet to be finalized.

In addition, defenseman Michal Rozsival did not play on Friday because of a sore groin, and he will not play on Saturday either. Tortorella stressed that the move is precautionary in nature.

“There’s no sense to play him in an exhibition game,” said Tortorella.

As for the game itself on Friday, The Blueshirts let a 2-0 lead slip away before rallying in the third period from 3-2 and 4-3 deficits. Marc Staal scored the tying goal with 3:59 left to play in regulation on a scintillating solo rush and finish.

Rangers winger Derek Boogaard celebrates his first preseason goal in the third period on Friday. The goal pulled the Rangers into a 3-3 tie with the Ottawa Senators after Ottawa surged into the lead.
Earlier in the final period Derek Boogaard had tied the game at 3-3 with his first goal of the pre-season. The Garden crowd erupted in long cheerful “Boooooos” for the rugged Boogaard.

“Those were the good boos, though,” Boogaard noted with a smile after the game. “It was good to get one. If you get in on the forecheck and crash and bang and then score some goals off of that, any player would take that any day.”

Boogaard’s linemates, Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust, also had big games for the Rangers. Boyle scored his second goal of the pre-season with a booming slap shot and also added an assist, while Prust contributed two assists.

“It is a lot of fun to help out and play well like that,” said Boyle. “I am very fortunate and very blessed to be playing well. I feel that I have the abilities to be a contributor like that and I’d like to move up and be counted on to do that.”

Rookie center Derek Stepan, who notched a shorthanded goal late in the second period, scored in the second round of the shootout for the Rangers. After Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson tied it, Erik Christensen scored the eventual winner before Henrik Lundqvist iced it by stoning Ottawa’s Peter Regin.

The Rangers, now 4-1-0 with three overtime wins in the pre-season, conclude the exhibition schedule with a rematch against the Senators in Ottawa on Saturday.

Tortorella confirmed once again that he will make final cuts to the roster on Sunday.
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