GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Michal Rozsival may not get a reprieve from the Garden boo-birds Wednesday night. He may not get a pass from the home crowd anytime soon, for Rangers fans have strong memories of every misplay from their squad.
But even the most virulent boo-bird on hand for tonight's game against the Panthers might admit that Rozsival, an underachiever for much of the early part of the season, has lately shown what a steady, positive presence he can be.
It's not just the three assists in his last three games, all wins for the Rangers. Rozsival has been carrying a big load of ice time among the younger defensemen, pairing with Marc Staal to be the go-to duo for most even-strength and shorthanded situations.
"He's played in a lot of different situations and he keeps getting those situations because he's responded," John Tortorella said after Rozsival and most of the other regulars took the day off Tuesday, with just a dozen players skating at the MSG Training Center here. "[He needs to] come back and do it again. That's the key for us as individual players and a team."
Rozsival didn't get benched like fellow veteran Wade Redden did last week, but Rozsival was certainly among the older players put on notice by the coach, who wanted to end what he thought was a "sense of entitlement" for playing time. Rozsival, the longest-tenured Rangers player, has had some good moments for the team, but not too many since Tortorella arrived in February.
Part of Rozsival's increased minutes have come from power-play duty, though Ales Kotalik returned to his right point spot in Monday's 3-1 win over the Hurricanes. "We thought he was doing some things pretty well away from the puck," Tortorella said of Rozsival. "We gave him some opportunity on the power play, he does a good job, so we keep giving it to him."
The Rangers need Rozsival and the rest of the squad going strong to snap a three-game Garden losing streak Wednesday night.
Notes & quotes: Henrik Lundqvist, who did not skate Tuesday, will make his 10th straight start tonight . . . Among the players who skated, Brian Boyle and Brandon Dubinsky, engaged in a brief scrap and had to be separated by assistant coach-GM Jim Schoenfeld. "Just a friendly moment between brothers," Dubinsky announced to reporters.