Maybe it was a combination of factors: The clinching of a playoff spot with 10 games to play; the “camaraderie…backing one another up” during the defeat of the Devils to which coach John Tortorella referred. Perhaps the spring weather or the early results of the NCAA brackets (“I’m the commissioner, I have the power to can change the results, maybe I’ll start a Sweet 16 pool,” Martin Biron quipped.)
But it seemed a sense of swagger and confidence and buzz that had been lacking re-emerged Tuesday at the training center in Greenburgh. Even Tortorella, before his acerbic remarks on Peter DeBoer and staged fighting, was loose enough to touch on topics that are often taboo: A postseason berth and opponents.
“It’s what you set out to do at the start of the season, to be one of those eight teams (in the playoffs in the East),” Tortorella said. “But we have a lot of work to work out some kinks in our game.”
Asked about division games as opposed to playing the Red Wings tomorrow: “We’re looking to get points. I think you can’t help when it’s a division game there’s more of a rivalry, I think, or more of a focus. I shouldn’t even say that because we’re always trying to be focused. But you know it’s a division game. There are no easy games in this league. Here’s Detroit, they’ve fought it a little bit, a little banged-up. But they’re a well-coached, really good hockey club. They’ll be ready to play.”
Speaking of divisional rivals, the Penguins (behind by 3) and Flyers (behind by 5) each play at home tonight, so the Rangers will have a better sense of where they stand tomorrow morning.
Here’s what you should know about Detroit: 5th in the West, 3-6-1 in their last 10, and now without No. 1 G Jimmy Howard, who has a groin injury, it was reported today. They are 16-20-2 on the road.
Couple more quotes: Brad Richards pointed out that the Devils game was the first with a playoff-style atmosphere, and “there’ll probably be more like that as we get closer.” And unlike the coach just yet, captain Ryan Callahan wasn’t reluctant to discuss home-ice advantage in the playoffs: “It’s huge, especially the way we’ve been playing at the Garden (25-9-2). We definitely want to keep it.”
Brandon Prust, who jammed his shoulder as he put his arm up to protect his head when he tumbled into the boards on a hit by Adam Henrique, is sore, but practiced and can play. His comment on the puck-drop lineup: “Right call by Torts.”…More on the injury front: “I’m feeling better,” said Artem Anisimov, who has sat out the last two games with a sore left shoulder, but practiced on a line with Brian Boyle and Mats Zuccarello. As tweeted, probably a game-time decision...The top two lines remained the same, but the fourth was Rupp-Mitchell-Prust. Wearing orange (spare) jerseys were John Scott and Ruslan Fedotenko, signaling that they could be scratched tomorrow.