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Greetings from Ottawa....Faceoffs, goalie hijinks and missing Russian snow

New York Rangers' Derek Stepan (21) tries to

New York Rangers' Derek Stepan (21) tries to score on Ottawa Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire (33), while Senators' Chris Phillips, rear, defends in the first period. (Dec. 5, 2010) Credit: AP

 

         Oh, Canada ....where it's a frosty 10 degrees.

          Bundling up for a stroll to dinner soon, and will be at the morning skate in Kanata, so stay tuned.

         Here' s some info about the faceoff issue from practice...

          Mark Messier’s mission to increase the Rangers centers’ faceoff wins continues, with the Hall of Famer---previously just an occasional on-ice tutor---now dissecting videos in one-on-one sessions with players.
 

“We looked at some of my faceoffs and clearly, I was taking my stick too far in one direction of the other” said rookie Derek Stepan, who will center Marian Gaborik and Ruslan Fedotenko here tomorrow in the second segment of a home-and-home against the Senators. “It’s kind of like playing in the defensive zone. The first several games, you play how you’re used to, then it’s, “OK, we fixed that one”, and after a while, you make some more adjustments. I have the tools. I think I’m close.”
 

Consistency is tricky, especially against opponents with different talents and techniques. In Friday’s 2-0 victory against the Islanders, Stepan (with a shaky 38.6 overall winning percentage) won seven of eight faceoffs, but against Pittsburgh, “I only had a few draws against (Sidney) Crosby and he undressed me.”
 

Without injured veterans Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal, the Rangers, who finished 21st in the NHL in faceoff percentage last season, have fallen further, tied with the Oilers for 28th at 45.1 percent.
 

“Mess has really taken a hold of it,” said coach John Tortorella. “This is the second day with tape; he’s taking centers one by one. It’s probably one of the weakest parts of our game. We talk about puck possession, that’s puck possession, winning faceoffs.”
 

With only three games between Dec. 19 and 30th, Messier, who was invited earlier in the season by Tortorella to provide hands-on advice in the circles, will increase his video work with Stepan, Brian Boyle (a 47.6 winning percentage), Artem Anisimov (41.5) and Erik Christensen (48.2). Sean Avery also took draws against Brandon Dubinsky yesterday.

“I’ve been doing better lately,” said Boyle, who had a stretch of five games of 50 percent or better. “It’s a matter of getting my stick in the right position on the dot. I don’t want to change things too much.”

Notes & Quotes

Before practice, a number of players spent more than 30 minutes on the power play and 5 on 3s. The Rangers were 0-for-4 in the 3-1 loss to the Senators on Sunday. “It hasn’t been great sitting on it for two days,” said Tortorella. “It was a winnable game and we didn’t get it done. Our puck handling and passing, especially early, was brutal.”

 

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Brian Elliott could start for the Senators tomorrow. Pascal Leclaire, who made 25 saves against the Blueshirts on Monday, left Tuesday’s game in the third period with a leg injury…. Henrik Lundqvist is likely to make the start, with perhaps Martin Biron in Columbus…In a drill at the end of practice, when players swarm the crease, Biron skated from the other end of the ice to help Lundqvist, blocking passes, trying to clear the puck and throwing shoulders into Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. Funny.  

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Todd White was born in Kanata, the suburb where the Senators play. His parents still live there, but are in Florida as the bitter cold settles in here. White has skated at several of the four area rinks, but not at Carleton College, where the Rangers will practice on Friday before flying to Columbus. White does however, know the team’s assistant coach: Shaun Van Allen, a former Senator, Oilers, Ducks, Stars and Canadiens...

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One reason (of many) why Artem Anisimov and I are very different. He told me today he missed the "Russian snow" and raised his arm about three feet off the ground... Oh, and first LP played on the relocated turntable at Chez Zipay yesterday? "Shootout at The Fantasy Factory", blissful scratches and pops and all....

 

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