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Staple: Callahan has emerged as a leader

The Rangers' Ryan Callahan checks Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson

The Rangers' Ryan Callahan checks Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson during the Rangers' 3-2 win over the Blackhawks. (Nov. 1, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

You look at Jonathan Toews, the captain of the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, and you see a talented playmaker. A player who follows through on hits and plays in all situations and does everything he can to produce a win.

The Rangers may not have anyone quite like Toews - or Patrick Kane, or Duncan Keith, the three superstars Chicago came to town with last night - but the Rangers have Ryan Callahan.

And Callahan, now 25 and in his fourth full NHL season, is the leader of this group.

Chris Drury is the captain, and Drury possesses many of the same qualities as Callahan - in fact, watching Callahan play is a reminder of the sort of all-situation performer Drury has been throughout his winning career. That's why Drury wears the ''C'' for the Rangers: For all the heat he takes for a big contract and smallish numbers, Drury plays through everything and in every situation.

Callahan is that guy now. His game in last night's gutty 3-2 win over the Hawks was a microcosm of the kind of player he's become.

First was some good play below the opposing goal line to turn the puck over late in the first period. The Rangers were down a goal, being outplayed by the defending champions and in need of something; Callahan got the turnover, Brandon Dubinsky got the goal and the Rangers went to the locker room tied when perhaps they didn't deserve to be.

Near the end of the second period, Callahan went down to block a shot, one of six he blocked in the game, one of 33 the Rangers blocked as a team. He took a Duncan Keith rocket off his ankle, went to the bench and then to the locker room to get a couple of stitches.

Callahan made it back onto the ice for a Rangers power play just after the start of the third, and his feed to Dubinsky produced another goal and a lead.

And of course, he was on for the final 1:50 with the Hawks' net empty, throwing his body around at the point.

"That never changes. It's the same story for Ryan Callahan, as long as I've coached him," John Tortorella said. "He's really becoming a leader."

The season is barely a month old and Callahan not only leads the Rangers in scoring, he has recognized the leadership void that's been created by Drury, Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal being out. It was Callahan who spoke up after two periods on home opening night, trying to rally the team after Gaborik and Drury went out with injuries. Dubinsky has raised his game to another level, and seems to accept Tortorella's desire to make Dubinsky a tougher player to play against rather than an occasional floater.

Teaming Dubinsky with Callahan, who never saw a check he didn't want to finish, may be rubbing off on Dubinsky, as well, creating an offensive tandem that will certainly give the Rangers something other than Gaborik when the star scorer returns.

Drury has been the captain, Gaborik has been the goal scorer and Henrik Lundqvist, sharp again save for a softy allowed in the third, is the star.

But this team has not quite belonged to anyone in the last couple of years, the way it belonged to Jaromir Jagr or Mark Messier. Callahan isn't there yet, but he's making his way.

And for Callahan, the ultimate team player, to seize the reins, the Rangers will have found themselves better as a team for it.

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