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Staal says Rangers' conditioning a key factor

HALFWAY RANGERS MVP Marc Staal A second half

Marc Staal

A second half like his first and he could merit serious Norris Trophy consideration. Quiet and steady, he’s now at 23 exactly what the Rangers brass thought he could be. Runners-up: Henrik Lundqvist, Brandon Dubinsky Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Friday night's 2-0 whitewash of the Islanders was the first time since March 2001 that the Rangers swept a back-to-back against the cross-river rivals.

It's not a coincidence, more of a pattern for these Rangers, who are 7-0-0 in second games of back-to-backs this year and 16-2-2 in the last two seasons.

Marc Staal, who logged a game-high 26:02 of ice time and has five points (1-4-5) in the last six games, had a theory. "We're all in great shape . . . Right now, we're just confident going into second games," he said. "We don't treat them any different than other games. I think it's just the guys in the room being mentally tough if your legs aren't as fresh as you want them to be."

Winning ugly

The 17 shots allowed were a season low for the Rangers. Ryan Callahan, whose elbow to Frans Neilsen at 12:42 of the first prompted an instigator penalty to Jesse Joensuu and a fight, said the Rangers were patient. Coach John Tortorella called it a grind.

Sean Avery said simply: "It was an ugly game. They didn't have many chances and neither did we."

Neither team reached double-digits in shots in any period. The Isles' first shot of the game came with 5:03 left in the first. "I thought as the game went on, especially in the second period, we started taking control of it," Tortorella said.

Blue notes

Brian Boyle's 11th goal put him one behind Dubinsky for the team lead and is tied for 15th place in the NHL . . . The Rangers were 1-for-5 on the power play and have six man-advantage goals in the last eight games . . . The Rangers are 12 for the last 12 on the penalty-kill and 45-for-49 in the last 16 games . . . After terrible faceoff performances in the last few games, Derek Stepan was 7-for-8 . . . Dwayne Roloson is 4-7-2 in his career against the Rangers . . . Derek Boogaard played just 2:42 . . . Brandon Prust (sore arm, shoulder) was a game-time decision and played 15:28 . . . Todd White and Matt Gilroy were healthy scratches.


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