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Rangers add power in a hurry at deadline

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
In Nik Antropov, the Rangers have added a high-scoring player who was having a career year for a team that was not even among the 2009 playoff contenders.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com

With the additions of Nik Antropov and Derek Morris just before the NHL’s trading deadline on Wednesday, as well as the acquisition of Sean Avery on Tuesday, Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather believes that the Blueshirts are now better equipped to secure a playoff spot and make a run in the postseason than they were even just a couple of days ago.

“I wanted to get some scoring, some size, some grit, and some speed; and I think we’ve done that,” stated Sather. “We’ll just see how the cards play out here in the future.”

Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather said the team will work with Derek Morris to return the veteran NHL defenseman to his higher scoring totals.
One day after claiming Avery off re-entry waivers from the Dallas Stars, Sather swung a pair of deals just short of Wednesday’s trade deadline. Sather first acquired Antropov, the 29 year-old center, from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a 2009 second round draft pick and a conditional draft pick. And then Sather shipped forwards Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes to Phoenix along with defenseman Dmitri Kalinin in exchange for Morris, a 30-year-old defenseman.

Both players picked up by the Rangers on Wednesday are former first-round draft choices. The 6-foot-6 Antropov was Toronto’s first round pick (10th overall) in the 1998 entry draft, while Morris was taken with the 13th overall selection by the Calgary Flames in 1996.

“(Antropov) is the kind of guy who is good around the net, with a big body, who can skate, and he moves the puck well,” Sather said of the former Leaf, who has 21 goals and 46 points so far this season. “I think you’ll have to ask Torts (head coach John Tortorella) where he wants to use him because he is versatile in that he has played both center and wing. Right now it just gives (Tortorella) more options.”

The Kazakhstan-born Antropov has flourished the past two seasons with his two most productive campaigns yet. Last year Antropov established career-highs across the board with 26 goals, 30 assists, and 56 points. This season, with 18 games remaining on the schedule, he is challenging all three of those marks.

Morris, who will be playing for the fourth NHL team of his career after stints in Calgary, Colorado, and Phoenix, is known for his solid two-way game. Smart and strong in his own end, Morris will also add a physical presence in front of goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist and Stephen Valiquette. And with experience throughout his career on the power play, Morris should help the Rangers in the offensive end, as well.

“Morris is a smart player who has a history of playing on the power play, though I don’t think his numbers have been as good this year as they were in previous years,” said Sather. “We’ll work with him when he gets here. Morris is a good, solid defenseman who gives us a little more bite on the back end.”

This season -- his fifth with the Coyotes -- Morris has recorded five goals and 12 points in 53 games. In his most productive season, with the Avalanche in 2002-03, Morris posted career-high numbers across the board with 11 goals, 37 assists, and 48 points to go along with a plus-16 plus/minus rating.

In order to acquire Morris, the Rangers were forced to part with three players who have spent the entire season on the club’s roster, including the popular Prucha. Sather, though, is confident that the Rangers are a much stronger, more rugged and skilled team up front with Avery and Antropov replacing Prucha and Dawes. And he also believes that the club upgraded their blueline with Morris replacing Kalinin.

“Since we got Avery here we had a surplus of forwards, and then adding Antropov took up another position, so it made sense to put (Prucha and Dawes) in that deal and give them a good opportunity to play,” explained Sather.

Prucha and Dawes will be reunited in Phoenix with Don Maloney, who was the Rangers Assistant GM when both were scouted and drafted by the club, and who now is the General Manager of the Coyotes.

This season marks the second consecutive trade deadline that Sather and Maloney have swapped players. A year ago, the Rangers acquired Fredrik Sjostrom from the Coyotes as part of a five-player deal.

Now after an extremely busy past 10 days -- ones that have seen a new coaching staff and three important veteran players added to the mix -- the Rangers will get down to the business of trying to secure one of the top eight playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference  over the final 18 games of the regular season.

“I have always said that managers manage, coaches coach, and players play,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “Glen is going to do what is best for this club, and it is my job to pull everyone together into the team concept and make sure we go out and finish strong in order to make the playoffs.”
 
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