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Rangers still searching for offense

New York Islanders' Richard Park (10), and New

New York Islanders' Richard Park (10), and New York Rangers' Vinny Prospal (20), get crossed up while battling for puck control in the first period. (December 17, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The Rangers' search for offense resumes Wednesday night at the Garden against the Flyers, this time minus Vinny Prospal.

If there's any bit of good news in Prospal's being out anywhere from 10 days to three weeks after having arthroscopic knee surgery Monday, it's that the Rangers weren't exactly wearing out the goal judges of the NHL with Prospal in the lineup.

"The goal's still the same: Get pucks to the net, crash the net, try to get some ugly goals. That's how we've had success this year," said Ryan Callahan, the second-leading goal scorer with nine. Prospal is third with eight. "We've got to continue to do that, with or without Vinny in the lineup."

Coach John Tortorella did not summon a young player from Hartford to join the Rangers for practice Tuesday, and the coach said he'd go with the current group "for now." That means a new opportunity for Ales Kotalik, who skated Tuesday on the right side with Artem Anisimov and Enver Lisin.

It means Erik Christensen returns to the lineup Wednesday night and may get some of the power-play time that Prospal got. "It's an opportunity for guys to step up," Tortorella said. "And, when the regular guy comes back, you hope your club is improved."

Marian Gaborik seems to be the Ranger with the most to lose from Prospal's absence, as the two developed an instant bond in their first Rangers seasons. Gaborik is looking for the same chemistry with Brandon Dubinsky, who has been a solid center between Prospal and Gaborik the last two weeks.

"Since he got back [from a broken hand Dec. 14], he's brought a lot of juice to the team, a lot of jump," Gaborik said of Dubinsky, who has three goals and three assists in seven games since his return. "Hopefully, we can create some chemistry there."

Chris Higgins, with four goals on 98 shots in 38 games, skated on the left side of the top line Tuesday. "He's done so many good things," Tortorella said, "except score goals."

Tonight's game begins a stretch of seven games in 11 days, the minimum time Prospal will miss. Without a consistent attack, a lot could change before Prospal returns.

"It definitely hurts the team, and it's too bad it's like this," Gaborik said. "We have to find a way to win some games without him."

Notes & quotes: G Henrik Lundqvist and Gaborik were named to the Swedish and Slovak Olympic teams within the past three days. Both expressed their gratitude at being chosen, but said the next six weeks belong to the Rangers before the Olympic tournament begins in Vancouver on Feb. 16. "All my energy and focus is on the Rangers right now," Lundqvist said . . . C Chris Drury (personal) was excused from practice but will play Wednesday night.

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