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SportsColumnistsArthur Staple

Rangers get help from surprising sources

Vaclav Prospal #20 of the New York Rangers

Vaclav Prospal #20 of the New York Rangers celebrates his second period goal against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum. (March 30, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

This could not have been the lineup that John Tortorella wanted to dress last night.

In place of injured regulars Ryan Callahan and Sean Avery, the Rangers had two call-ups from Hartford with a total of 21 NHL games between them. In place of injured regular fourth-liner and penalty killer Brian Boyle, the Rangers had Aaron Voros, who has more healthy scratches (40) than games played (35) this season.

In place of Matt Gilroy, struggling through the tail end of his rookie season, they had Anders Eriksson, who has played for a mere 14 pro teams since he reached the NHL with the Red Wings in 1995.

No, this was not the ideal lineup for Tortorella and the Rangers, nor was it the ideal start, when a bad defensive change 72 seconds into the game gave the Islanders a power play, which Mark Streit converted. The Isles were up 2-0 after a period and the ragtag Rangers, with four shots on goal, looked like a team that wasn't terribly intrigued by the idea of making the playoffs.

But it takes everyone to right the ship, and the Rangers needed everyone they had in uniform last night, even if they weren't the pros from Dover. P.A. Parenteau had an assist and was a plus-3 playing with Vinny Prospal and Olli Jokinen, who each had goals in the second period to bring the Rangers even.

And then it was Voros' turn. He leads the Rangers in marquee friends - Henrik Lundqvist, Avery and Marian Gaborik are his guys - but not necessarily in talent, so his chances of making an impact are slim. But he corralled a puck behind the Isles net and fed Gaborik for the go-ahead goal in the second on the way to a 4-3 must-have win for the Rangers, who stayed in the playoff hunt.

"You see those guys doing it and it energizes the whole group," Chris Drury said. "Torts has been on us all year to play the right way, the right way, the right way - when you see P.A. and AV doing it when they haven't gotten many chances, it gives everyone a boost."

Voros became a Ranger two summers ago largely on the strength of a game he had against the Rangers on Dec. 20, 2007, when he had two assists and a fight in the Wild's 6-3 win. Gaborik had five goals that night for Minnesota, and became a Ranger one summer later; Gaborik's goal last night was his 40th.

Voros' assist was his fourth point this season. He'll never be mistaken for a key Ranger, but you need everyone on nights like last night, with Callahan and Avery out and the battle for the playoffs still hot.

"He's had the hell kicked out of him for a year and a half since I've been here," Tortorella said of Voros, "but when he's in, he adds to the lineup."

Parenteau gave his linemates a boost. Jokinen has been in Tortorella's doghouse for a couple weeks, but he had his best game as a Ranger. Prospal had a renewed effort and edge.

"The guys that are getting it done right now are the guys that are going to get the opportunities down the stretch - stars, call-ups, first-rounders, minor-leaguers, whoever," Tortorella said.

The Islanders know what it's like to not field the ideal roster. Andrew MacDonald returned after missing a month, but the defense still has more Bridgeport in it than Scott Gordon would want, and now the Islanders are headed for the draft lottery for a second straight year.

The Rangers may yet squeak into the playoffs, and their stars may yet carry them. The irregulars had a big hand in it last night.


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