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Tortorella quickly gets down to business

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Tortorella Post-Practice Remarks on Tuesday Watch

By Jim Cerny,

There is no question that Rangers head coach John Tortorella is in his element now.

Training camp is in its second full week, conditioning tests have been taken and passed by the players, several preseason games have been played, youngsters have been shuttled back to the minor leagues or to their major-junior programs, and now Tortorella is deep into teaching his system and style of play to the players who will, by and large, make up the 2009-10 New York Rangers.

It’s precisely what Tortorella has been looking forward to since the day the 2009 postseason came to a close for his team.

Rangers head coach John Tortorella praised Vinny Prospal for his hard work on Tuesday. Prospal, who also played for Tortorella in Tampa, figures to be a key player in the coach's up-tempo system.
“I have my checklist as far as our team concept, and I get a little antsy because that checklist is a little long,” said the head coach. “It’s just so hard to get to everything when you are caught up in the evaluation process and have such large numbers (of players). So I am anxious, though this is the fun part of coaching for me.”

The Rangers currently have 24 players remaining in training camp. Winger PA Parenteau was reassigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack on Tuesday, leaving 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies still in camp.

Tortorella said that he was impressed with Parenteau’s play during camp and the preseason games, and that the 26-year-old from Quebec should prepare himself for other opportunities that may arise with the Rangers as the season progresses.

“He’s a talented player, he’s got skill,” Tortorella said of Parenteau, who had a goal and an assist while playing in all five preseason games to date. “The thing is that I don’t want to put him on a fourth line. I have an idea of the top six or seven forwards. And if he’s not one of those guys right now, it’s just not the role that we need him in.”

Defining exact roles is part of Tortorella’s mission over the next 10 days before the Rangers raise the curtain on the 2009-10 campaign in Pittsburgh against the Penguins on Oct. 2.

With Brandon Dubinsky back in the fold, for example, the coaching staff needs to decide if the 23-year-old veteran of two NHL seasons will play center or on the wing this year. And who will his linemates be? That decision is beginning to take shape during practices this week, and will evolve even more so when Dubinsky likely plays in his first preseason game on Thursday at The Garden against the Washington Capitals.

No matter where, or with whom, he plays, Tortorella said he is expecting big things from Dubinsky this season.

“The thing we like about (Dubinsky) is that we feel that he has that scoring ability, (and) we feel he can be a sticky player, also, because he brings a physical aspect to it,” the head coach said.

For his part, Dubinsky -- who recorded 41 points last season and 40 during his rookie campaign two years ago, is feeling good after his first couple of workouts with the team. And he is ready to accept whatever challenges lay ahead of him this season.

“I feel great, and surprisingly I feel better on the ice than I thought I would,” said Dubinsky after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s still going to take a day or two to get comfortable with the puck again and making those plays under pressure quickly like you need to, but ultimately that comes with practicing and playing the pre-season games.”

Another player who will be a key member of the forwards unit this season is Vinny Prospal, who like Dubinsky might play at center or on the wing. Prospal has done both successfully throughout an 11-year NHL career in which he has scored 198 goals and recorded 599 points.

Tortorella, of course, knows Prospal quite well, having coached him for several years in Tampa Bay. And through that experience, the head coach is well aware of the vast array of skills the 34 year-old Prospal brings to the Rangers, no matter which forward position he plays.

“He’s very skilled,” Tortorella said of Prospal. “And I don’t think he gets enough credit for how hard he competes.”

Strong play from talented young Russian forwards Artem Anisimov, Enver Lisin, and Evgeny Grachev, as well as the improved play and conditioning of Aaron Voros and Brian Boyle, is sure to make Tortorella’s final cuts before the regular season gets underway an extremely difficult decision.

Likewise on the backline, it is not going to be easy for Tortorella and his staff to pare down from eight defensemen to either six or seven. Solid play from three of the organization’s top prospects -- Matt Gilroy, Michael Del Zotto, and Bobby Sanguinetti -- along with the steady veteran presence of camp-invitee Alexei Semenov makes the final cut or two on the backline a tough task for Tortorella.

“It’s a good problem for us to have,” said Tortorella. “We’ve got a logjam in some areas. I’m not sure where it’s all going to settle. And I’m not trying to be coy here. I just don’t know yet.”
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