PHILADELPHIA - Slowly but surely, a five-game December stint in the minors seems to be paying dividends for Matt Gilroy. In his 15th game since returning from the Hartford Wolf Pack, Gilroy recorded the first multipoint game of his NHL career in the 8-2 whipping of Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, assisting on goals by Enver Lisin in the second period and Chris Higgins in the third.
The 25-year-old North Bellmore native, who won the Hobey Baker Award at Boston University last season, agreed that he was joining the rush with more authority, "because I'm playing better defense, I'm more comfortable."
A forward until he switched to the blue line in college, Gilroy said he is still adjusting. Before the demotion, Gilroy, a righthanded shot, was paired with callups Bobby Sanguinetti and Ilkka Heikkinen, and was switched to the left side. "I'd never played on the off side before," he said. With Wade Redden, a lefty, he is back in a familiar position.
"The biggest thing was, we wanted him to engage as far as separating people from pucks, to be more aggressive," coach John Tortorella said before the Rangers left for Philadelphia, where they face the Flyers Thursday night. "Gilly had a habit of just mirroring a guy coming out of a corner and not closing him out. We feel he's made improvement there. We constantly remind him. He's always in good position because of his skating ability, but positioning is one thing, separating people is another . . . Since he's been back he's done a pretty good job."
Gilroy has been averaging about 17 minutes of ice time a game, and said he wasn't fatigued. In college, games, practices, classes and the weight room filled the schedule. The only off day was Sunday. "I have more free time," he said. "On a day after practice, I'm back in Manhattan at 2 or 2:30, and sometimes on off-days, I have nothing to do."