In many ways, Dominic Moore's return to New York and the NHL has been a microcosm of the Rangers' season: A slow start, seven games missed with an injury, a scoreless stretch, a one-game benching and then a goal, which he hopes will spark a revival.
"You know it's funny how it seems like you've had plenty of chances and literally nothing will go in, and all of a sudden, you get one that seems easy and why wasn't it that easy all along?" Moore mused after practice on Friday, a day after he scored his first goal of the season, a backhander from the slot on a rebound with Blue Jackets goalie Curtis McElhinney out of position. "It's been a long time, so it felt good."
Moore, 33, had last scored on Jan. 12, 2012, against the Bruins while he was playing for the Lightning. But that stat can be deceiving, like so many numbers without the benefit of perspective.
The Ontario native, who graduated from Harvard, spent last season away from hockey to care for his wife, Katie, who died last January from a rare form of liver cancer. In July, he signed a one-year deal with the Rangers, who drafted him in 2000.
So if anyone has perspective on the fragility of life and the game, it's Moore, who has played for eight other teams in a productive career as a two-way center.
"My expectations are pretty high," he said. "I know what I can do in this league, so my pressure on myself is to meet my own expectations, not necessarily anyone else's. I know I can be better, to be as complete a player as I can, and so I'm constantly working every day to get to where I know I can be."
Moore is known as a valuable teammate, determined on ice, vocal on the bench and a top-shelf faceoff man. He was 7-for-7 on draws against Columbus and has won 52.5 percent this season.
When you've been around since the 2003-04 season, a four-game losing streak isn't unusual, just another challenge, and Moore speaks from the experience of about 600 games, including the playoffs.
"Any time you're going through a phase where you're not winning, you can tend to start overthinking things, start thinking about the result as opposed to the process," he said. "I think we'd be wise to focus on the process and improvement, and you know, if you improve every day as an individual and a team, there's pretty much no way you can fail. You're going to find that success."
Losing focus during the ebb and flow of a particular game because of refereeing or puck luck is counter-productive, Moore believes.
"I think you need to focus on little things, the things you can control, such as effort, attention to details, in terms of the little things within the game and not worry about a good bounce, a bad bounce here and there, a penalty, a non-call here and there," Moore said. "I think that's the right approach and the rest will take care of itself."
No backup blues
Cam Talbot (6-2, 1.74 GAA, .934 save percentage) isn't the only backup goaltender who has been impressive this season:
Frederick Andersen Anaheim 8-1, 1.74, .938
Jonas Gustavsson Detroit 8-1-2, 1.93, .933
Martin Jones Los Angeles 4-0, 0.74, .974
Chad Johnson Boston 6-1, 1.98, .928
Antti Raanta Chicago 5-0-1, 2.12, .926
Brian Elliott St. Louis 8-1-1, 2.14, .913
Heard around . . .
With team president Brian Burke firing GM Jay Feaster and taking control in Calgary, the Flames will be active in trade discussions. The Rangers could use somebody like forward Curtis Glencross, although if Burke wants more "hostility" in Alberta, there might not be a match on Broadway . . . The Yankee Stadium Series jerseys are expected to be unveiled mid-week . . . Speaking of jerseys, ever wonder when a player is suddenly called up, how much the equipment crew has to scramble to produce one in the right size, with number, name, etc.? Actually, they are well prepared. The Rangers crew has jerseys from all players in training camp stored and set to go . . . With the NHL shut down on Dec. 24, 25 and 26, some players have made plans to be home for Christmas: Ryan McDonagh back to St. Paul; John Moore to the Chicago area, Cam Talbot to visit his wife's family near Dallas, Dylan McIlrath to Winnipeg.