Game 2 report from Pittsburgh: Stralman on PP; Kreider closer
PITTSBURGH -- With the power play mired in a 0-for-25 drought, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault appears to be turning to defenseman Anton Stralman, who has seen very little time with the man-advantage in the second half of the season.
With Columbus in 2009-10 and 2010-11, however, Stralman had five power play goals and 27 assists. In the 2012 playoffs, with John Tortorella behind the bench, he scored two power play goals.
“We’re struggling a little bit right now, Stralman, 27, said Sunday. “We just need to keep to the basics and really just focus on taking a lot of shots and getting to the net. I can’t focus on being a hero of a power play. That’s not what I’m going to do. You don’t have to overthink it. It’s about getting the puck to the net, having bodies in front and making life tough on the goalie.”
In the morning skate, Stralman, who had two assists in the seven-game Flyers series, practiced on the point with Dan Girardi in place of John Moore, with the unit of Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis. "He brings a one-timer from that side,” said Nash. “That way we have two one-timers. He has a good shot."
During the season, Stralman had just one goal (on Feb. 4 against Colorado) and 12 assists during the season. He played just 22:28 with the man advantage, spread out over 38 games, but in nine games in the second half, he was on ice for fewer than 15 seconds, when he was sent out just before the teams reverted to even strength.
“Anton obviously does a good job for us on breakouts and is able to find open lanes in the offensive zone. He’s a good player,” said Vigneault, who warned not to read much into any morning skate changes. “He’s had some looks offensively in different games.”
The truth is, Stralman will see some time with the man advantage---he was in PP meetings---but who he is paired with on the point (Girardi, Brad Richards or Ryan McDonagh) is yet to be determined.
Stralman credited Tortorella for stressing that he needed to be tougher defensively, and noted that it was once written in Columbus that he was "soft as ice cream" and the comment wasn't far off.
Otherwise, looks like no other line or d-pair changes for the Rangers. Pens still won't have Brooks Orpik, and possibly not C Brian Gibbons.
Chris Kreider, who had surgery on his left hand on March 28, is “looking better”, Vigneault conceded, and did not rule out his return in this series. “I don’t know, we’ll find out,” he said. The left wing, wearing a non-contact jersey, joined the team at the end of practice for the second day, stickhandling and attempting some soft shots. Kreider had 17 goals, including six on the power play, during the season. Here's the problem: With the schedule of games tonight and tomorrow, the Rangers likely won't have a full practice Tuesday before Wednesday's Game 4. So in my opinion, the earliest Kreider would be back is Game 5.
Spare goaltender David LeNeveu, 30, who appeared in 22 games for the Hartford WolfPack, with a 12-8 record, a 2.46 GAA and .915 save percentage, is traveling with the team.