As the Rangers strive to fashion their first two-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden Sunday against Tom Renney’s Edmonton Oilers, coach John Tortorella will send out the same lineup and first power play unit as he employed in the 3-2 overtime win against Buffalo, including goaltender Martin Biron, because Henrik Lundqvist remains under the weather.
Tortorella said he was pleased with Biron’s work against the Sabres, and that the Quebec native, who played for the Sabres, Flyers and Islanders, brings intangibles as well. “He’s a good teammate, the guys pull for him,” Tortorella said after practice Saturday. “He’s found his way here so he’ll get another start.”
Upfront, that means Derek Boogaard will be a healthy scratch again, with the fourth line of Derek Stepan, Sean Avery and Todd White remaining as a trio.
“I thought Boyle-Fedotenko-Prust was by far our most consistent line,” Tortorella said. “Artie’s line (Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan) played better and capitalized. Alex (Frolov) and Erik (Christensen) and Gabby, I want to give them a chance to see if they can work together.”
In his first game back after missing 12 with a separated left shoulder, Gaborik’s reunited trio wasn’t quite in synch. Gaborik had three shots on goal and two other attempts, but the best opportunities came on the power play, with Brandon Dubinsky at center and Ryan Callahan.
“I thought Gabby brought some dynamic,” to the power play, which was 0-for-4 Thursday and ranks 22nd in the league at home, Tortorella said. “Dubi set him up with a one-timer and I think the whole power play, although we didn’t score, had some good movement. He (Gaborik) disguises his shot very well. Brian Boyle’s going to be a guy we’re going to park in front of the net. We’ll try different people in there, Erik and Frolov, Step may get some time there. But the first unit, Dubi, Cally and Gabby, I’m going to stick with to see if we can get something going.”
The young Oilers are last in the West with 11 points, 2-5-3 in the last 10 and 30th on the penalty kill.
For the moment, the struggling Christensen (2-2-4 in 15 games) and Frolov (2-4-6 in 16) will stay with Gaborik, although changes could come before center Chris Drury returns, possibly sometime around Thanksgiving. The Rangers (8-7-1) play five games in the next seven days, including a back to back set in Colorado and Minnesota next weekend.
“He cares,” Tortorella said about Frolov, a two-time 30-goal scorer signed as a free agent who has yet to click on any line. “He does a lot of good things, and if you look at his chances the other night, he shoots it over the goalie (Jhonas Enroth, lying helpless) and it hits (defenseman Jordan) Leopold’s stick, and falls on the goalie, the goalie didn’t stop it. I never coached him before, we’re just hoping that when he does score, they’re going to come in bunches for him.”
Defenseman Michal Rozsival said Saturday that he hadn’t yet used any weights to strengthen his right shoulder, which was badly strained and forced him to the sidelines to rest rather than dress for the Buffalo game on Thursday. He will definitely miss the back-to-backs Sunday and Monday, and Wednesday’s game against the Bruins. “It’s only been three days,” he told Newsday. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll start that (weight-training).” We need to give him some time to strengthen it,” said Tortorella, who initially predicted that Rozsival would miss 7-10 days. “In another few days we’ll have a better idea of where he’s at.”
Asked about the new All-Star Game format, in which designated team captains will select most of the rosters, Lundqvist said he has a plan: “Make sure I send the captains a really nice gift, a big basket.” He may want to rethink that: In his only All-Star appearance, in 2008-09, he allowed six goals in 20 minutes.
Told yesterday that snow was falling in his home state of Minnesota, rookie defenseman Michael Sauer jumped up from his locker. “Deer hunting season! And when you get that first snowfall, you go out in the morning and follow the tracks.” Sauer, 23, who grew up in St. Cloud, said the weather would be just right for his family to be out hunting, although he didn’t mind even lower temperatures. “I’ve been out in negative-40, in the trees, with the hand warmers, feet warmers. It’s awesome.”