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Rangers Looking at the Positives Heading into Thursday Against Islanders

Plus update on Ryan McDonagh

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Despite the loss, head coach Alain Vigneault and his team are looking at Tuesday's performance as a continuation of the Blueshirts turning the difficult start to their season around, even if the results are there just yet.

"We're working extremely hard right now, both as a team and individually to get our game where it needs to be for us to win," Vigneault told reporters on Wednesday. "This is obviously a business that's oriented on winning. We need to get our game where it's going to permit us to do that on a more regular basis.

"I look at the things we've been working on," he continued. "We're taking huge steps in the right direction in all facets of our game, defensively and offensively. It's just a matter of time before we put it all together. The focus is there, the preparation and hard work is there that's needed to be successful."

There's certainly reason to believe things are trending upwards. The Blueshirts controlled long stretches of its 3-2 loss Saturday against the Devils, and played well in the final 40 minutes of Tuesday's 5-4 overtime loss to the Penguins.

Starts have been a big culprit in the slow start for the Blueshirts, and that continued against Pittsburgh when Phil Kessel scored just 43 seconds into the contest.

"It always puts you in a more challenging situation when you start off games like that," Vigneault said. "We haven't started off all our games like that, but we have started too many in my estimation. We're trying to simplify things off the bat for the first little while there and try to get pucks deep."

The simple message is resonating inside the locker room, and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said he felt that was a key in the team's performance Tuesday night, and if the team continues down that path, the starts will also improve.

"That always hurts," he said of the bad start. "We've been talking about it now for weeks. It's really something we have to clean up. We know the formula. It's just making a few more simple plays to start it off, making sure that pucks get deep when we're making our changes. Those little details that turn you into a great team and a winning team."

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Captain Ryan McDonagh did not practice with the team on Wednesday with what the team called a maintenance day. Vigneault expects No. 27 to be in the lineup Thursday when the Rangers host the Islanders at Madison Square Garden.

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