Translating a league second-best 27 preseason goals into enough points for a playoff spot in the tough and competitive Eastern Conference are two different things for the Rangers.
Six months after Philadelphia beat them on the season’s final day, denying the Rangers a playoff berth for the first time since 2004, the Rangers know they need to bump up their scoring and stay healthy to return to the postseason.
None of that is a guarantee, though coach John Tortorella has said he has “a good feeling” about his team’s quickness and ability.
Marian Gaborik, right wing
Now recovered from a groin injury that limited the 42-goal scorer’s late-season production, the only rostered player who netted more than 20 goals last year must continue to shoulder the scoring load. Pairing him with new right wing Alex Frolov should intensify the first line.
Henrik Lundqvist, goalie
The 28-year-old Swede wound up starting a career-high 73 games last year, but the presence of former Sabres and Flyers starter Martin Biron should keep the fifth-year Ranger fresh for a final playoff push.
Brandon Dubinsky, center
With captain Chris Drury out the first few weeks with a broken index finger, Tortorella will be shifting things. Dubinsky will probably go to first-line center from the left wing he played all training camp.
Marc Staal, defenseman
The 23-year-old former first-round pick (2005) didn’t miss a game for the Rangers last season and scored a career-high eight goals and 27 points. He teams with Dan Girardi to provide a solid first-line defense.
Ruslan Fedotenko, left wing
The nine-year veteran scored 11 goals for the Penguins last year; he was signed off a tryout. Fedotenko will have to help Gaborik with the goal-scoring load. With Dubinsky going up to first-line center, Fedotenko probably will skate with Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan on the second line.
Derek Boogaard, left wing
Tortorella needed an enforcer, so general manager Glen Sather went out and got the Boogyman from the Wild. Voted the second most intimidating player in the NHL, he once shattered Ducks hitman Todd Fedoruk’s cheekbone. Linemate Sean Avery can get pretty rough himself.
HOW THEY STACK UP
The offenses of the Capitals, Penguins, Devils and Stanley Cup finalist Flyers make them the Eastern powerhouses. But the Senators, Canadiens, Sabres, Lightning, Thrashers, Bruins and Hurricanes should finish close enough to leave the Rangers precious little room to wedge into one of the eight available playoff spots. A second straight year out of the postseason will certainly cost Tortorella his job.