DENVER----Hoping to generate more puck movement in 5-on-3s, on which the Rangers have been scoreless in four opportunities, including 1:44 against the Bruins on Wednesday, coach John Tortorella is shuffling the deck.
He’s inserting rookie Derek Stepan on the right point, where he played in high school, at Wisconsin, and in the World Juniors. Marian Gaborik will move lower and more to the middle.
“We’re putting him (Stepan) on his strong side,” said Tortorella. “It’ll involve him in starting plays up top, and some plays down low; we feel he has a quality in seeing the ice. I just felt Gabby and Michael (Del Zotto) were holding on to it too much, especially Gabby. We’ve got him (Gabby) in a spot where maybe he can finish, although I know he likes it up top. I think we’ll be more fluid that way.”
Brandon Dubinsky was Cody McLeod’s center for several years in juniors with the Portland Winterhawks. “Good guy, hard worker. He willed his way into the NHL,” said Dubinsky.
McLeod, 26, who played left wing on the fourth line last night, said he hadn’t really kept in touch with Dubinsky. “It happens over the years,” said McLeod, who leads the Avs in penalty minutes. “He’s off to a nice start this season, what's he got 11 goals? That’s good to see. I know he scored 30 one year (2004) there. But I had 31.”
When forward Chad Kolarik was traded from Columbus to the Rangers on Nov. 11, he immediately called Avs center Kevin Porter, his best friend and former University of Michigan roommate. The pair also played together for the U.S.-under 18 program and both were drafted by Phoenix in 2004.
“We talk every week,” said Porter, who had four goals in his last six games. “Getting on the board’s been good for my confidence,” said Porter. As for Kolarik: “He scored in his first game at Hartford,” said Porter. “I hope he gets a chance in New York.”
Rangers say first-rounder Dylan McIlrath, who missed a week in Moose Jaw with a knee problem, will miss another week or so with a mild MCL sprain that was diagnosed in yesterday's MRI in New York.
Yeah, it's a late start, but please follow me here tonight for game and post-game coverage from the Pepsi Center and breaking news and commentary at twitter.com/stevezipay. Thanks for reading.