Interesting morning at the rink.

            No caveman sightings, but the stack of bills with the googly eyes was atop the net and focused on Marian Gaborik today as he filmed a post-practice commercial for Geico.

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            During the practice, Henrik Lundqvist tested his yellow and white Team Sweden pads. Then, when the blade of his stick cracked, he snapped it off, faced Chris Drury with just the shaft and slid it at him on a one-on-one. Drury scored.

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            Doug Risebrough, the former Wild GM who was hired as a consultant by old friend Glen Sather and has been scouting teams in the West (loves Chicago, who doesn't?), was here for a private summit with the boss. Slats ushered him into his office halfway thru practice.

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            Meanwhile, coach John Tortorella said the Stars game tomorrow night had nothing to do with Sean Avery---who declined to talk to the media---then, in a rather rosy assessment, said the team should disregard negative criticism from outside and argued that the club was not struggling, but rebounding, and seeing breaks in the "cloud" of losing.

           First on No. 16: "It's not Sean Avery versus the Dallas Stars. We're way beyond that and I'm sure Sean is way beyond that. We've just got to have Sean getting his game back together and concentrating on helping the New York Rangers. I know this is gonna come up: Our players, no matter who you are, we're the New York Rangers trying to win a hockey game."

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           Then here's the coach's response to my question about the team's recent play:

           "We're 6-1-2 in the last nine games," he said. "I'm trying to get rid of the cloud, it's a very difficult situation we went through, and we tried to get rid of that cloud. I am not gonna say that we're struggling 'cause when you get points in eight out of nine games, I have to feel pretty good about the club and I hope the team feels good about themselves, so I don't think they're in a struggling mindset. You look at probably eight, nine ten teams in the league, they're right there with us too."

          "I'm a realist. I think when there are tough times and you struggle as a hockey club, maybe some of that needs to be around the team, but when the team starts growing, I'm trying to get rid of that stuff around us. We're trying to keep that locker room in a situation where they feel pretty good about themselves, and they should, no matter what people think or say or write about us, we have to understand what we've done and I think we have rebounded and have played some good hockey here."

         Let's see, beating the Isles in a must-win after a team meeting, edging the Flyers and Canes on the road, and beating Florida. But then a loss to the Isles, a 6-0 humiliation by Philly at MSG, beating the Hurricanes 2-1 on the road on New Year's Eve, losing to the Canes in OT at home and barely averting a crushing, late, 2-goal slipup to the Bs on Chris Higgins' goal with 1:29 left in regulation.

        "Some good hockey", true.  Is the corner turned? Let's discuss after the next four: Dallas, Atlanta, Boston and New Jersey. 

        Thoughts?