With the Rangers trailing 2-0 in the series, it appears John Tortorella, as he hinted yesterday, will tinker with the lineup. It’s not official, but Ryane Clowe seems ready to return, and some forward will sit, either Arron Asham, who stayed on this ice a little longer after the optional this morning at MSG, or perhaps Darroll Powe.
If you’re coaching from the armchair, both have been physical on the forecheck. If it’s a tad more offense you want, Asham should probably play; Powe gives you a body on the penalty kill, and that may be more valuable to Torts.
It won’t be Chris Kreider, who probably should be in the lineup, but skated with Kris Newbury and the taxi squad at the training center in Westchester.
Marc Staal is a different situation, and a tougher call, which is his. Only he knows about the real vision issue in game action.
He skated in the optional and left early, perhaps to avoid questions. I still think it’s 50-50 on him. As he has said, because of the dilation in his injured right eye, he has to feel comfortable with the lighting in buildings to be as sure as possible he won’t make a costly error.
For those thinking he’ll be in, a couple factors: With the last change at home, Torts can control Staal’s time and situational play on ice. Also, Staal is more familiar with the lighting at the Garden. And, if you don’t use him now, does he play Wednesday, or not at all this series?
The other side of the debate is who comes out? The defense has been pretty solid. Assuming Staal would be on the third d-pair, the guess is Steve Eminger.
Here’s some of what Clowe said:
"I feel pretty good out there….I’m still not sure about (playing). When I come back, like anyone else at this time of the year, no one is at 100 percent but…I’ll definitely feel capable of doing everything that I think I can bring or the style I think I can play which is obviously a physical style. That’s probably the key point of what I’m looking at here. Whenever guys come back, they’re not going to come back and put themselves at risk even though we’re all tough guys and will play through injuries. More than anything, I think guys look at how you can help the team. If you’re at 90 percent or 80 percent and you feel you can play but you’re not helping the team, it’s pointless. Especially this time of the year. I’m like anyone else, I’d love to be out there. Hopefully I will be.”
Some of those comments, particularly the end, can apply to Staal as well.
The four Columbus arrivals will play their first playoff game at Madison Square Garden: Rick Nash, who didn’t skate in the optional and wasn't available to the media, Derick Brassard, John Moore and Derek Dorsett.
Some thoughts from the latter three:
Dorsett on being aware not to be too amped and take a careless penalty: “There’s a fine line there, you’ve gotta walk that line, you can’t cross it. It’s going to be rocking here tonight and we’ve got to make sure we use that energy and use it the whole game, you can’t just come out hard and back off. The fans will play a huge part in it. We’ve got to make sure we get pucks to the net and get in on the forecheck and push them back as far as we can.”
Dorsett, who missed eight weeks with a broken clavicle, said he felt sore, but good after his first playoff game. “I felt my timing got better as the game went on…Can’t wait until the puck drops.”
He said that “there’s a lot of leadership in the room, keeps the guys loose and ready to play. It’s been an eye opener on how well they stay together, and that’s what we have to do tonight.”
Moore: “I’m sure it’ll be a night I won’t forget. I’m so focused, everyone’s so focused on the task at hand when the game starts, but when you jump on the ice and everyone’s going pretty crazy and the electricity’s there, I don’t care who you are, you’re gonna feel that and have that reaction. You’re playing the same team, so not a lot’s changing, we’re doing a lot of video, you get to see what the team likes to do in certain situations.”
Brassard: “I’m gripping the stick too hard, I have to just relax.”
Same lineup for Caps, and betcha Henrik Lundqvist in for Rangers
And some excerpts from Torts:
On the difference in the play Carl Hagelin, who took a rest day on Monday, in Game 1 and 2: “It happens, guys have their legs one game and they don’t the next. His game is his legs. He’ll be good tonight.”
Hagelin: “Having been through it before, we have confidence in ourselves.”
On the first two games: “I think they have been a helluva lot more even than a lot of other people think.”
Note: Capitals coach Adam Oates said the series has been "very similar" to Devils-Rangers last year, when he was an assistant coach for the Devils.
On coaching at this point of the season: “A big part of coaching is addressing your team on how they played, not what the result was. It’s a game of results, there’s no question about that.”
On improving: “I think we’re close…(but) it means squat if you don’t win.”
Players in the optional: Biron, Hagelin, Asham, Dorsett, Hagelin, Zuccarello, Brassard, Boyle, Clowe, Powe , Staal, Eminger, Moore, Gilroy.
Best quote from Alex Ovechkin? Asked about the reception he expects from fans at MSG: “I get booed in every city, it’s not going to bother me...We know what the fans are going to be doing. Maybe they're going to do something new, I don't know."