McCabe adjusting to new team and role

Buffalo Sabres center Cody McCormick (8) controls the Buffalo Sabres center Cody McCormick (8) controls the puck against New York Rangers defenseman Bryan McCabe (28) during the third period at Madison Square Garden. (March 1, 2011) Photo Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

advertisement | advertise on newsday

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After 15 years in the league, Bryan McCabe is adapting again. To not being a top-four defenseman. To a different defensive system and power play. To new teammates. To being back in New York, where he began his career as an Islander.

"It's an adjustment period for him," Rangers coach John Tortorella said after practice at the Honda Center as the Blueshirts, who have won two straight, prepared for tonight's game against the Ducks. "I think he's fit in, I watch him off the ice, just the intangibles, just in hanging around the last couple of days in LaQuinta. He's a gamer; I think his personality is good for our team."

McCabe, 35, captained the Panthers for the last two seasons and was a top- two defenseman, and although the veteran is a key on the Rangers' re-engineered power play, he is playing with Matt Gilroy on the third defense pairing and seeing less ice time, just 16:22 against Ottawa on Friday and 13:18 against the Flyers on Sunday.

"We feel our top four are our top four and it's a little bit of a different role for Bryan," Tortorella said, referring to Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer. "We're going to go with our young guys. He and I talked a bit about that today. I thought [Sunday] was his best game for us as far as the power play and patience and being involved on the bench. As far as his understanding our defensive system, that's a work in progress."

The Rangers employ a 1-3-1 power play, which is different from the Panthers, who traded McCabe on Feb. 28.

"You've got more options," said McCabe, who has two assists in five games. "It's been an easy transition. We've got some very skilled guys and my job is to get the puck on net."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Tortorella said that McCabe's willingness to shoot is critical, but his vision and "subtle plays" have been valuable, as well.

"McCabe, who will be a free agent this summer, has been in playoff hunts for three of the last four years and relishes the opportunity.

"It's what you play for," he said. "And it's home to me, I spend summers here. It's one reason I was drawn to the Rangers, there's a lot of roots. Next year? I can't think about that. We need every point we can get."

You also may be interested in: