TORONTO — This town is absolutely buzzing, and the beehive is the Air Canada Centre, where the Maple Leafs will stage their home opener against the Rangers on Saturday.
Don’t think the Rangers aren’t wary of being stung for the second consecutive game.
“I was there in playoffs last year, it’s a wild building . . . and the city’s behind them again,” Kevin Shattenkirk said Friday. “There’s a lot of talent there, most importantly. We have to try not to play a run-and-gun game with them because that feeds right into their emotions and into their system. If we can frustrate them a little early on, hopefully we can build on that and score on our chances.”
The Leafs have firepower for sure, hanging seven goals on the Winnipeg Jets in their opener on Wednesday. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said the team would remain in the locker room for the Leafs’ introductions, which are sure to be rousing.
Shattenkirk, who was on ice for three goals in the 4-2 loss to the Avalanche in the season-opener at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, reiterated that on rushes, the trailers burned the Blueshirts’ backchecking. “They found that late guy. We have to make sure we’re coming back and clogging that area.”
Said Mika Zibanejad, who scored twice on six power plays: “There’s obviously room for improvement everywhere.”
Last season, the Rangers topped the NHL in wins (27) and points (56) on the road, and often rebounded from losses quickly, going 23-7-4 in games following a defeat.
Vigneault, who outlined some of the “bad decisions and bad reads” in Thursday’s game, generally tinkered with the lineup after losses, switching out a forward or a defenseman. But it appears that there won’t be any changes from Thursday. If there were, it would be on defense: The Rangers are carrying only 12 healthy forwards and eight defensemen.
Judging from practice, Nick Holden and Steven Kampfer will be healthy scratches again and Henrik Lundqvist sounded like he wants the work. He mentioned after Thursday’s game that “the biggest thing when you haven’t played for 10 days, you just try to go out there and build your game.”
It’s not unreasonable however, that changes could come in Sunday’s home match against the Montreal Canadiens, the third game in four nights.
“It was finally a real hockey game and the margin of error got that much smaller, so that was really the best part for us,” Shattenkirk said about Thursday’s loss. “We realized one mistake turns into a goal now, whereas in the preseason you can get away with it. The only way to get better as a team is to play games.”