Coming off an abysmal showing in their home opener Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the New York Rangers will look for their first win on home ice today against the Ottawa Senators. The Rangers came out of the gates Thursday with a purpose, playing their game and establishing their home ice. For whatever reason, that energy dissipated over the remaining 40 minutes of hockey and resulted in an embarrassing 4-2 loss.
One of the more telling aspects to come out of Thursday’s loss was Henrik Lundqvist’s play in net. Normally a brick wall, Lundqvist surrendered questionable goals that the King would surely like to have back. Lundqvist is only human – although some of his performances make you believe otherwise – and having a difficult night in net is bound to happen. It’s when your teammates pick you up and score some goals that helps you get through a rough game and that was not evident against the Maple Leafs.
Join me after the jump to get the full pre-game report:
MSG Network 3:00PM
After Thursday’s loss, head coach John Tortorella once again tinkered with the lineups, this time splitting up the Brad Richards/Marian Gaborik combo. Mad scientist Torts had Richards centering Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan while having Gaborik along side spare forwards Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski, drawing the ire of Ranger nation. What’s more, Torts believes that, in the long-term, the Richards/Gaborik combo may NOT be what’s best for the team. Larry Brooks of the NY Post spoke to the head coach:
“I can’t say we definitely want that to happen,” he said. “It looks great on paper, and the signing, but tapes talk to me and watching guys play, that talks to me, and that’s what I’m deciphering now.
You can’t get glued to one situation. You have to worry about the whole situation, what’s best for the team, winning a hockey game and playing the way we have to play.”
You can make the argument the constant shuffling of lines is hindering any chance at creating chemistry with any of the line combinations. However, as Brad Richards pointed out to Kristie Ackert of the NY Daily News if things were working, there wouldn’t be a need to tinker:
“Obviously, offensively our team is not clicking overall, some individuals have had good games and stuff like that, but as a player, if things aren’t going good, change is sometimes what you need,” Richards said. “Maybe you get a different look, maybe to get away from someone for a little bit. If it was working, there would be no line changes. It’s simple.”
Center Mike Rupp is doubtful for today’s game due to a knee issue. Marc Staal still remains out with post-concussion symptoms.
Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators (5-5-0 10 points) come into Madison Square Garden riding a four-game winning streak and a last-second victory over the Florida Panthers Thursday night. Oft-injured center Jason Spezza, leading the team in scoring with 13 points (5g, 8a), told Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun head coach Paul MacLean’s approach of playing whistle-to-whistle is working effectively:
“We’re not looking that far ahead. I think what we’re trying to do is be really shortsighted. Even in games, (coach) Paul (Maclean) has talked about getting to timeouts, getting a lead to the first timeout, playing well to the next timeout. It’s worked for us. I don’t think we’ll change that approach.
Bobby Butler will be a healthy scratch for the Senators. Craig Anderson will get the start in net.
Wojtek Wolski-Erik Christensen-Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky-Brad Richards-Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Derek Stepan-Artem Anisimov-Kris Newbury
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto-Tim Erixon
Michael Sauer-Steve Eminger
KEYS TO VICTORY:
- AT THE FOREFRONT: Something that’s been lacking during the early portion of this young season is an established forecheck for the Rangers. It’s what defined the team a season ago and it’s exactly what they need to get back in order to get their season going. The captain Ryan Callahan has to set a physical, aggressive tone early and everyone else follows suit.
- CHEMISTRY 101: The line shuffling continues again for today’s game. The easiest way to stop that from happening is to make something happen on the ice and give the coach a reason to keep you together. Get pucks deep, cycle, drive the net (without taking penalties), directing pucks at the net are all positive things.
- SECONDARY SCORING THE REMEDY? The Senators are dead last with 39 goals against. Scoring two goals will not cut it against this team. Could this team be the cure the Rangers offense needs for its offensive woes? Only if they play like sharks who taste blood in the water. Players like Dubinsky & Anisimov need to attack, attack, attack the net!
- GET THE POWER PLAY MOVING: It isn’t just a message to the players out there to generate some puck movement. Ottawa is 29th in the NHL with a 72.3% rate, giving up 13 goals while down a man already (good for the most in the NHL). Now would be the best time to get that power play working. Maybe Torts should go back to putting his bottom-six forwards out there.
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