Tortorella has decisions, moves on tap for Game 3

Head coach John Tortorella of the New York

Head coach John Tortorella of the New York Rangers leaves the ice following a defeat against the Ottawa Senators in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. (April 14, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

OTTAWA---With his team tied at one game apiece heading into Game 3 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Senators tonight, Rangers coach John Tortorella has a significant decision to make.

Rookie left wing Carl Hagelin began serving his three-game for elbowing Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in the head in Saturday’s Game 2 loss in New York. So Hagelin, who has had a significant influence in the improved chemistry of Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik on the first line, has to be replaced.

Alfredsson, 39, meanwhile, who also practiced, said earlier in the day that he sustained a concussion, but felt better and would be a game-time decision. Asked about the suspension, he said, “It’s hard. I don’t think Carl’s that type of player. Things happen. He gets his elbow up.”

After today’s morning skate, in which Hagelin participated, which he is permitted to do, it seemed clear that either Chris Kreider or John Scott would take his place in the lineup, and that lines would be shuffled. Tortorella declined to announce his lineup in a very brief Q & A with the media.

Kreider and Scott are totally different players, and the coach’s decision will indicate in which direction he sees Game 3 evolving.

It would be the NHL debut for Kreider, 20, a bigger version of the speedy Haglein. The 6-foot-3, 217-pound Boston College star who signed an entry-level contract last Tuesday led the Eagles in scoring in his junior year with 23 goals and 22 assists and has been practicing with the Rangers since,

Scott, 29, is more experienced, and far bigger---6-foot-8, 265---but also far slower and has played just six games as a Blueshirt, none since mid-March. Kreider could slide onto a second or third line; Scott, acquired at the trade deadline from Chicago for a fifth-round draft pick, is a fourth-line enforcer.

Kreider, a native of Boxford, Mass., told reporters on Sunday that he is ready to play if needed---or else he would have stayed in Chestnut Hill to finish his degree before the fall. He was escorted through the locker room by the Rangers press relations director after the skate to avoid interviews.

Regardless of the decision---and the loss of Hagelin---the Rangers steeled themselves for two in-your-face games on Monday and Wednesday at Scotiabank Place after watching a 2-1 lead early in the third period get away when Nick Foligno scored with 4:37 in regulation and Chris Neil scored in overtime at Madison Square Garden.

“I expect it to be very similar and for it (the physicality) to go up,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean.

The same tow goaltenders, Henrik Lundqvist and Craig Anderson would square off again, and the Rangers defense pairs was expected to remain the same. Matt Gilroy, who played in Game 1, was stepping in for Ottawa’s Matt Carkner, who was suspended for a game for his ambush of Brian Boyle in Game 2.

“We just want to get back on the ice and play,” said Derek Stepan. “We’re confident and ready.”

To advance to the second round, the Blueshirts, who won 24 road games this season, will have to win at least one away game. “We’re confident on the road, but we don’t think about our record,” Mike Rupp said. “If we were terrible on the road, maybe we would, but the road doesn’t intimidate us at all.”

As this rugged series unfolds, with the increasingly physical play and suspension of Hagelin major storylines, Rupp said, “it will be harder and harder to gain an inch.” But he added, “In the grand scheme of things, it’s all about Game 3. We’ve done a good job all year of being resilient.”

Said Brandon Prust: “There’s no use whining about it (the Hagelin suspension)…We’ve done a good job of keeping our emotions in check all year.”

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