Leaving this afternoon for Pittsburgh, where the local hockey team actually scores!
The incomparable Mark Herrmann (catch his golf blog On the Green at newsday.com, it'll make you forget about the Rangers' winter of discontent for awhile) subs for me at practice, where he'll let us know about Marian Gaborik's condition and whether Corey Potter will make the trip to Pensland.
Vinny Prospal's 5-on-3 bank shot off Dan Ellis was all the Blueshirts mustered last night, although they did take 18 shots in the third when the desperation kicked in against the Preds, who had played into a shootout with the Isles the night before.
But really, whadja expect with essentially 9 forwards playing? Potter (8:28) was the 7th D dressed---first time all year---and Brandon Prust played a whopping 4:11 and Brian Boyle 5:58.
Ya know what, if you're keeping Potter around (and there are some inklings of a trade before Friday's Olympic roster freeze), let him play and move Matt Gilroy upfront. I mean, can it hurt to see 12 minutes of him on a third or fourth line at this point? He was a forward until college....
Below is a game recap, some notes and quotes.
Will check in later...and remember to follow me at twitter.com/stevezipay
In the absence of leading scorer Marian Gaborik, Henrik Lundqvist stepped up. But as has been the case most of the season, the offense took a step back.
Playing after three days off and minus Gaborik, who was cut on the thigh by Lundqvist's skate in practice on Tuesday, the Rangers crumbled under the weight of penalties and ineffectiveness on the power play, losing 2-1 to the Nashville Predators last night as snow swirled outside Madison Square Garden.
"When you are trying to crawl out of a hole and trying to gain some consistency in your game, your structure, your team concept and your discipline, at this time of year, is so important," said coach John Tortorella. "We are not good enough not to be dead on with that stuff."
At this point, having lost eight of the last 10, they are not good enough, period. Despite a scoring drought, Tortorella opted to go with seven defensemen, adding Corey Potter from Hartford because he felt some unnamed blueliners were banged up and might not finish.
In reality, it was the forwards who couldn't finish against goaltender Dan Ellis, who made 37 saves, including 18 in the third period, when the Rangers finally found some attack. That came too late, far too late in a game in which Lundqvist excelled again, with 34 saves, keeping the Rangers within a goal the entire night.
The game-winner came with the score tied at 1 in the second period. Michael Del Zotto was called for a hook and received an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for jawing at referee Ian Walsh at 12:34. Tortorella scolded the 19-year-old, who was sent to the end of the bench and remained rooted there for the rest of the period.
"I just didn't agree with the call but I've got to control my emotions there," said Del Zotto. "I let the team down. I didn't think I said anything too bad. Maybe I've got to learn to keep my mouth shut."
The penalty-killers came very close to escaping the four minutes shorthanded, but Brandon Dubinsky lost his stick and Michal Rozsival hit Ryan Callahan with a clearing attempt in front of Lundqvist. Colin Wilson quickly fired the loose puck from the right circle for a 2-1 lead at 16:10.
Del Zotto returned at the start of the third period, and Alex Sulzer pulled down Chris Drury at 2:45 behind the net, giving the Rangers a chance to improve on their 1-for-4 mark with the man advantage. They didn't, ended 1-for-6 and Ellis held off a desperate flurry by the Rangers in the final three minutes, who stopped Olli Jokinen, Vinny Prospal, Artem Anisimov, Erik Christensen and Enver Lisin, and couldn't score with Lundqvist pulled for the final 1:54.
The Rangers had tied the game at the tail end of a five-on-three for 59 seconds when Steve Sullivan went off for slashing at 8:51 of the second. Jokinen cut along the blue line to snare a clearing attempt and the Rangers set up with passes around the perimeter. Eventually, Jokinen’s wide slapper was grabbed at the post by Vinny Prospal, who banked the puck in off Ellis at 9:48. It was the 12th goal of the season for Prospal, who had a career-high nine shots.
Earlier in the second, Lundqvist began his superb play by holding the score at 1-0. He gloved Jordan Tootoo’s break-in about two minutes in. Martin Erat later rang one off the crossbar behind Lundqvist, who then used his right skate to stop J.P. Dumont coming in alone.
The Rangers dropped to 26-27-7 with a trip to Pittsburgh next on the menu. The Predators (32-22-5) went ahead 1-0 at 17:45 of the first on a shot by Kevin Klein from the right point through traffic that hit Tootoo. "I knew going into the game, I can't afford any mistakes," said Lundqvist. With 22 games to play and outside looking in at the playoffs, neither can his teammates.
Gaborik, scratched last night because of swelling around a deep cut on his thigh, could return for tomorrow’s game against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
“He’s day-to-day,” said Tortorella, who spoke with trainer Jim Ramsay after Lundqvist’s skate caught Gaborik above the knee in a collision during a breakaway drill in practice, and discussed the injury with Ramsay again yesterday morning.
“There just wasn’t a good chance (he’d play),” said Tortorella. “It’s a pretty nasty gash, we’re fortunate it wasn’t more serious than it was. I think after a couple of days it’ll calm down---the swelling---the blood fills, and so hopefully he’ll be ready to play in Pittsburgh.”
Gaborik, who was dogged by groin and hip injuries during his eight seasons with the Wild, has missed just two other games this season, his first in New York. The right wing was not at the Garden at the start of last night’s game, but stopped by to watch, a team spokesman said.
With two games remaining before Gaborik, who has 35 goals and 34 assists, leaves to play for Slovakia at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Tortorella said there was “no chance” that he would be rested until then. “If he can play, he’ll play. He’s our best player.”
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