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The Wrap: Trouble in FLA



                     One goal in two games in Florida won't cut it. Sked tougher in January. Injuries keep coming. Bad moon rising?


               That Ruslan Fedotenko didn't become the third Ranger to fracture a hand or finger while blocking a shot this season was about the only good news out of this evening's 3-0 loss to the Panthers. Coach John Tortorella said that Fedotenko, who was struck in the right hand when crouching to block Brian McCabe's shot on a first period power play and didn't return, has no fracture, just a bad bruise and is day-to-day.
Tortorella's mood was darker because of the poor start ("I don't have an answer," he said) and a slashing penalty in the offensive zone by rookie forward Dale Weise that led to David Booth's power play goal at 11:32 that broke a scoreless tie. "The penalty aggravates me. When you're in a zero-zero game, it can't be a dumb offensive zone penalty. I don't want to hear about a rookie penalty. You can tell that the team that gets the lead… it's going to be tough to find a way to win. There's not much room for error when you don't score a goal."
The tight-checking game marked only the second time the Rangers have been blanked this season, but the power play (0 for 8 and 1 for the last 19) is stalled. "Every team goes through this type of thing," said Gaborik, referring to scoring just four goals (and one empty-netter) in the last three games. "We just have to jam the net, not go around the perimeter. It's going to come."
Fedotenko escaped the long-term injuries to Callahan and Chris Drury. In fact, in a gutsy move, remained on the ice and attempted blocks of two more shots, before tossing his stick and not returning. "We tried to ice him during the game, but he just couldn't grip his stick," Tortorella said.
Booth's 10th of the season came on the Panthers' 25th shot against Martin Biron. Defenseman Steve Eminger pushed Rostislav Olesz into Biron just prior to Booth's shot. "I still think the guy is coming full speed anyway," said Biron, who stopped 33 shots overall. "It's a gray area. Maybe we throw a couple guys in the crease. Toward the end there we did that."
With the Rangers, who had played in Tampa last night, trailing 1-0 in the third, Cory Stillman's goal in a scrum in front at 3:23 was disallowed upon review. The officials ruled that Stillman kicked the puck over the line. "We got away with one there," said Marc Staal, "we just couldn't find a way to get anything past (Tomas) Vokoun," who made 32 saves.
The Panthers made it 2-0 at 8:50 when former Ranger Christopher Higgins knocked the puck past Michael Sauer at the point, sped down the left side on a 2 on 1, waited for Michael Del Zotto to slide to block a possible entry pass and walked around him to beat Biron. “We need to tighten up a bit defensively,” said Drury.
The Rangers also did not convert power plays in the first and third periods. With a minute left on the third period penalty to Shawn Matthias, Biron was pulled, but the 6-on-4 failed and Stephen Weiss flipped a shot from mid-ice into the empty net with 1:30 to play.
Now 9-1-0 in the second game of back-to-backs, concluded the three-games away from the Garden at 1-1-1 Through 40 games, they are 22-15-3 and host Carolina on Wednesday.


Despite the fact that Fedotenko was spared a broken finger, like Chris Drury, or a broken hand, like Ryan Callahan on Dec. 15 and Brandon Dubinsky last year while blocking shots, the Rangers roster needs repair.

As written the other day, Callahan is sorely missed for his forecheck and battle level. Erik Christensen (knee) and Derek Boogaard (concussion) are out and Vinny Prospal has had a "little bit of a setback" in his recovery from knee surgery, and won't skate everyday, Tortorella said, so the estimate that the 35-year-old, who had the surgery on Oct. 18, would be back mid-January isn't on target. There is no new timetable.
Potential replacements in Connecticut? Not really. Todd White has been waived four times. Evgeny Grachev and Chad Kolarik may not be ready.

                 Tortorella did not want to discuss the play of D Michael Del Zotto, who returned after being scratched for four games, without looking at tape of the game. The second-year pro played 15:33, looked a step behind, was a minus-1 and was whistled for interference in the first period while missing a pinch along the boards...In his third NHL game, Dale Weise, whose holding penalty provided the power play that led to David Booth's goal that gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead, did not play after that....Brian Boyle and Mats Zuccarello combined for eight shots... Boyle also was struck in ankle by Jason Garrison's shot, but returned...Marc Staal led defensemen in ice time with 28:10; Marian Gaborik played 24:58, often double-shifted, to lead the forwards....Tortorella thought the Derek Stepan, Brandon Dubinsky and Zuccarello line was the team's best. Dubinsky said Zuccarello, the diminutive Norwegian, "is like a sponge, he wants to learn and I keep telling him to just play his game. He's going to be a big part of this team."....


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