....even if the Rangers find themselves in ninth place in the East, he told me after practice. Oh, the Rangers are aware of the possibility. If the Canes, who play the Caps in about 10 minutes, grab two points, they're in 8th.
Here's my report from practice....
SAN JOSE----In marinas just south of this city where the Rangers practiced this afternoon, persistent waves from the Japan tsunami were damaging boats and knocking them from their moorings. And while the Blueshirts were aware of the rising tide of teams trying to secure an Eastern Conference playoff spot, their ship remained steady---on the surface, anyway.
If the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Washington Capitals tonight, the Rangers would fall to 9th place, on the outside looking in for the first time since late October.
But coach John Tortorella and several key players said the standings were shifting so rapidly with a month to go in the season that there was no reason to doubt themselves.
“Sure, it felt different when we were in,” (6th place and clear of ninth by seven points on Feb. 2) said Henrik Lundqvist, who will start tonight against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks (39-22-7 and 18-11-4 at home). “In the last two weeks, it hasn’t felt like we were really safe when we were ahead by three or four, especially with teams (Carolina and Buffalo) having games in hand. So your mindset doesn’t change with the standings. You just worry about your game---and winning.”
The possibility of waking up Saturday in 9th place, said Brandon Dubinsky, shouldn’t increase the pressure on the Rangers, who watched a video of their turnover-filled 5-2 loss Wednesday to the Ducks in the first game of this two-game trip. “We can’t go in there scared or be timid or think we’re going to lose. We’ve beaten a lot of good teams. We understand what makes us a good team, the things we need to do.”
Tortorella insisted that he was confident and declined to make comparisons to last year’s team, which fell short of the playoffs. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight and we’re happy about being in it,” he said. “This is a different team than last year, but we’re in the same spot trying to get in. Some teams aren’t. I’ve said it before, I like this hockey club, we’ve grinded together and bonded together, it’s just a different feel. We’ve handled adversity, as far as all the injuries we’ve gone through; this should be a time that you really want to grab a hold of it and be part of it. We’re not out of it, we’re right in the middle of it.”
Seems as if either Erik Christensen or Sean Avery will be the spare forward tomorrow...Avery (3-21-24) has played every game this season... My guess on D? Either Steve Eminger or Matt Gilroy will sit....Tortorella declined to reveal his decision until the morning.