In the offseason, one of the primary needs identified by Rangers management was to find a No. 1 center, especially after trading Scott Gomez to the Canadiens and signing right wing Marian Gaborik.

                       The void hasn’t been filled, even with the acquisition of Olli Jokinen from Calgary on Feb. 2.

                       “We’re struggling up the middle,” coach John Tortorella ackowledged before yesterday's game. “I don’t think Jokinen’s played well…I don’t think he’s played hard enough either.” Vinny Prospal and Brandon Dubinsky were shuffled through the pivot for the first half of the season, although both were left wings yesterday, and veteran Chris Drury, primarily a center, was on right wing.  The top two centers were Erik Christensen, claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Dec. 2, and rookie Artem Anisimov, with Jokinen on the third line.

                       Last night, Dubinsky was paired with Gaborik and Christensen “I’m not putting him (Dubinsky) back in the middle,” Tortorella said. “At this point in time, I think he’s a better wing for our team. Erik Christensen sees the ice better. Dubi needs to be consistently hard….his responsibility is not so much to worry about off the rush and making fancy plays, we need to have the puck underneath the hashmarks. Dubi’s responsibility is to take up a lot of that as far as fore-checking and being strong on the puck.”

                       Tortorella also separated Prospal and Gaborik, although they had been the team’s most productive pairing all year. “They stink right now together. Vinny, his effort is always there,” said Tortorella, “but he couldn’t make a 10-foot pass the last game. That’s the way he gets sometimes. They haven’t been good for awhile, maybe an occasional play during the game.” 

                    Torts did predict that Gaborik would have a good game, and he did. But the sloppiness undermined the effort.

                     No one, however, suspected that Lundqvist, the backbone of the club most of the season, would falter on two or three stoppable shots. And both T. J. Oshie on a 4 on 4 and David Backes hit posts. Lundqvist did stop BJ Crombeen's shorthanded breakaway.

 

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                            Enver Lisin and Aaron Voros were healthy scratches for the third straight game and sixth out of the last seven...The March 24 Rangers-Islanders game will be broadcast in 3D at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden, and will be available on Cablevision systems in homes with 3D televisions and the appropriate set-top boxes. Tickets for the Theatre broadcast are $20.