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The Wrap: Defense,Grachev, and can they stay afloat?



                    It's going to be a rough November, with 16 games ---including four back to backs---and all that comes after tonight's third match between the Leafs and Rangers in Toronto. 

                   Without Gaborik and Prospal, the Rangers (4-4-1) offense is surprising most observers. But they are leaving a lot to be desired defensively. The Canes had far too many opportuinities against Henrik Lundqvist, who deserved better.

                  The Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan line has been a revelation and if coach John Tortorella can find the right two linemates for Marian Gaborik when he returns, the Rangers can have two lines providing threats. But Gaborik is at least seven or eight games away. That's a lot of points at stake. Chicago, Philadelphia, Jersey, the Blues, the Caps and the Sabres are no pushovers. They have to tighten up defensively. 


                 Evgeny Grachev wore No. 91 as a youngster in Russia. In the 85-year history of the Rangers, only Markus Naslund wore that number in his lone season in New York. Right now, that’s where the comparisons end.

Naslund retired after scoring 395 goals in 1,117 NHL games, most of them in his dozen years in Vancouver. The career arc of Grachev, 20, is just beginning.

In his NHL debut last night, the 6-foot-4 Grachev, who was selected in the third round of the 2008 draft, started as the fourth line right wing with Todd White and Eric Christensen and coach John Tortorella’s expectations were simple.

“We want to see his strength on the puck,” Tortorella said. “That’s something we talked about in camp, using his body to protect it. He hasn’t scored a bunch (12 goals last year in Hartford and one this season) and for him to get some ice time in the NHL level, he can’t hurt you defensively, with turnovers, especially with his size. We want him to understand how he has to play along the wall.”

Grachev was hurriedly summoned to Washington last Oct. 8 when Ryan Callahan was questionable with a back injury. He arrived at Verizon Center just before the game, but Callahan recovered and Grachev, disappointed, was returned to the AHL afterward. "It's a little different this time," Grachev said. "I got the call around 5 on Thursday, picked up my Halloween costume (Avatar) and came here. Then the coach told me this morning I was in. "


His line: Just 6:55, nine shifts, no shots. About 1:18 in the third.


Some numbers/observations: Callahan was the Rangers best player again. It was his third consecutive multi-point game.....The Rangers won 58 percent of the faceoffs, but lost several key ones in the third to Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu....Rangers were 2-5 on the PPand have four in the last four games...They also surrednered two on four PPs, including the winner...The 43 shots were the most since a 44-shot effort in a 5-0 whitwashing of the Islanders last March 24...Girardi had six blocks...Alex Frolov had an assist but hasn't scored in four of the last five....



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